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Annie at The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Annie the musical first appeared in theatres in the late 1970s, followed shortly afterwards by the release of the well-known film in 1982, and even a remake in 2014. So well-known is the show that it has become a cultural reference point – and you might think you know how the show will play out.

But it is surprising how much you forget, and the touring production of Annie, showing at Hanley’s Regent Theatre this week, is a great reminder of exactly why this show has proved to be so timeless.

The big numbers are there with Tomorrow and It’s The Hard Knock Life, and the story of the mistreated orphan who gets a dream invitation to the home of a millionaire is well known, yet for people who haven’t seen the film or musical since they were a child the historical backdrop brings a new dimension, adding an additional layer of storytelling and interest.

Delivered by a strikingly talented cast, this production of Annie is engaging from the off with the phenomenally talented Zoe Akinyosade taking the starring role of Annie and leading a cast of remarkable youngsters who take on the roles of Annie’s friends at the orphanage. Akinyosade takes the lead with a performance that is flawless – from her engaging and funny dialogue to her superb voice and confident dancing. And all at just nine years old!

While this fantastic portrayal of Annie led the show, the other key characters saw equally strong performances that kept the story moving with pace and humour. Jodie Prenger as Miss Hannigan brought an abundance of character as the villain of the piece that it was impossible not to like, playing the part with great humour that helps to set the tone. While Alex Bourne as Daddy Warbucks was also excellent, filling the stage with the warmth that the story demands and delivering an outstanding vocal performance.

Also of note were Amelia Adams as Grace Farrell, the caring PA who makes Annie’s dreams come true and the nefarious duo Rooster and Lily, played by Paul French and Billie-Kay, who plot to spoil Annie’s new life.

The storyline behind Annie is great – and is what gives the show its timeless quality, and the cast bring emotion and fun to the script, backed by scenery changes that are so well executed homes and dormitories make ways for offices and soup kitchens unnoticed. While the 1930s backdrop and Annie’s ‘role’ in Roosevelt’s New Deal are well played, supporting the appeal of the show to all ages.

The choreography is equally fantastic with dance numbers executed perfectly while famous songs punctuate the unfolding story.

Annie is a show that has an evergreen appeal and is that rare production that can genuinely entertain all ages – there’s even a cute dog that takes to the stage as Sandy. For a feelgood night out that offers seamless entertainment, catchy songs and nostalgic warmth, head to The Regent Theatre to catch Annie.

Annie is at The Regent Theatre until Saturday, May 13th – book online now.


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