Annie, presented by the Gordon Frost Organisation opened at QPAC last week to a delighted audience and from the crowd’s reaction, the favourite of the show was a close run between Annie and her canine co-star Sandy, the dog.
Directed by Karen Johnson Mortimer, the strength of this production lay not in theatrics or the story so much as most adults would have watched the film in their childhood, but the impressive cast.
The role of Annie is shared by Chloe Thiel, Anita Munro, and Xanthe Dunning, with the opening night honour performed by Thiel. Thiel was outstanding as Annie, radiating confidence, charm, and a mature approach to the role, especially when handling and interacting with her canine companion.
The eight orphans were little talent powerhouses as they sang and danced and acted in front of an opening night QPAC crowd (complete with convincing American accents). All the girls should be commended on their very professional and awe-inspiring performances. Special mention goes to Kennedy Foley who stole many moments playing the youngest orphan Molly, just by being so adorably good for her age.
The adult leading cast reads like a showbiz royalty roll call, with Nancye Hayes playing the role of Miss Hannigan with every line and movement honed and delivered with pinpoint accuracy. Anthony Warlow reprising the role of Oliver (Daddy) Warbucks was charmingly perfect for the role and one of my favourites of the Warlow repertoire with his austere manner balanced beautifully with vulnerability and a bit of cheekiness, creating a very likeable character. It was touching to watch the rapport between him and Annie, with such a big star being so supportive and generous onstage with his little co-star. Julie Goodwin as Grace Farrell, his personal secretary, has such a stunningly beautiful voice that one could just listen to her sing all night, and her poised comforting stage presence was most apt for the role.
Chloë Dallimore was scintillating as leggy Lily St Regis, along with Todd McKenney as Rooster, who together formed a delightfully shady vaudevillian duo. Jack Webster has a lovely moment as the tap dancing Butler, Drake, and adding to the celebrity line up is the controversial casting of Alan Jones making his stage debut as President Roosevelt.
The strong ensemble rounded out the production, adding the finishing touches to the various crowd scenes, each with fully realised characters and vocal prowess.
The massive sets designed by Kenneth Foy, complimented by a huge projected screen, were spectacular as always anticipated and delivered in these big budget musicals with the many mechanised pieces ensuring pacey scene changes.
My only criticism is that the beginning of the production was so slick and rehearsed that it seemed a little over-prepared, as there was simply no time between dialogue and movement to have an emotional breath or thought to motivate that movement. However, the show presents itself as classic ‘musical comedy’ so acting philosophy 101 should probably be left at the door. In saying that, the second act delved deeper into the drama and human condition between the main characters, which was heart-warming to watch.
But the proof of the pudding of course is in the audience, so we’ve let them speak for themselves:
I thought it was wonderful, I was spell bound the whole way through. I thought every bit of it was fantastic.
- Kaye Crowther, Scarborough.
I’ve watched Annie one hundred times and Tomorrow is my favourite song, I also loved the tap dancing butler.
- Tonia Krosch, North Lakes.
I thought it was excellent. The performances of the children were outstanding.
- Christine Mayer, Kangaroo Point.
I particularly liked the children. They are just so talented. It’s good to come to these things and realise just how talented people are. I think it’s important to let our children see how talented other people are and appreciate the arts, to experience our culture.
- Christine Martin, Graceville.
They were very good actors. I liked Christmas time at the end of the show and what Annie got as a present. I like Molly and Rooster because it was Todd McKenney.
- Tiah Ash (8), Bray Park.
I liked the ending. I didn’t like getting out of the car park. The kids were absolutely fantastic; talk about little professionals. Grace had a very, very good voice and fitted the role well with lots of poise. Nancye Hayes played a good character part with lots of facial expression.
- Grandfather, Bray Park.
I liked it better than How to Train Your Dragon and Mary Poppins.
- Alyssa Mortensen (6), Samford.
My daughter loved it. She kept giving standing ovations during the show; standing up and clapping and dancing and wiggling in her seat.
- Kelly Mortensen, Samford.
Fantastic Show, Fantastic Cast. Anthony Warlow and Nancy Hayes steal the show and with a standout performance. ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ and ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ will have you singing along in your seat.
- Charley Greaves, Auchenflower.
Annie will be playing at QPAC for five weeks and judging from the audience, is a sure-fire hit with the kids and a great family night out – I’d bet my bottom dollar on it.
Book: Thomas Meehan
Lyrics: Martin Charnin
Music: Charles Strouse
Director: Karen Johnson Mortimer
Musical Director: Peter Casey
Choreographer: Kelly Aykers