Craig Revel-Horwood as a tired and emotional as a newt Miss Hannigan


Wolverhampton Grand


Before leaving for the theatre I watched the Labour Party Conference highlights on the news. The signature song from Annie Tomorrow (sung by Roosevelt’s 1930’s cabinet in the Oval office!) could easily have been used, thematically demonstrating its contemporaneous relevance.

This musical debuted on Broadway in 1977, written by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan. It is based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip created by Harold Gray in 1924,(which in turn was inspired from the poem Little Orphan Annie by James Whitcomb Riley). There have been numerous film and television adaptations.

Dramatically, the show pivots on the character of orphanage matron Miss Hannigan, for whom Director Nikolai Foster has chosen a man, Craig Revel Horwood, to perform the role. Originally the late Paul O Grady had been listed for the part.

Although famous for his judging on television’s Strictly Come Dancing, Craig has a distinguished track record in Musical theatre Miss Saigon and Crazy for You) as well as being omnipresent on the Pantomime circuit, he can sing well in addition to being able to dance well. Jodie Prenger takes the part on Saturdays.

I had my reservations about his casting beforehand. They were wholly misplaced. He is brilliant as the booze loving, children hating matron. There is (thankfully) not a trace of his television judging persona, nor does he assume the role of a pantomime dame, he IS Miss Hannigan.

trio annie

Craig Revel-Horwood as Miss Hannigan, Paul French as Rooster and

 Billy Kay as Lily

The cast is large, and child heavy. Inevitably the child roles rotate, suffice to say they are all excellent, and assiduous dancers.

Alex Bourne is imperious as multi–Billionaire Daddy Warbucks whose stoney capitalist heart is melted by orphan Annie. Amelia Adams is sassy, and persuasive as Warbuck’s personal assistant Grace. Paul French enjoys himself as the conniving confidence trickster Rooster, trying to claim both Annie and a reward by presenting himself and leggy girlfriend Lily (Billy Kay) as Annie’s parents.

The costuming is lush for Warbucks’ scenes, the stage lavishly set, both courtesy of Colin Richmond with period radio news broadcasting as a backdrop.

On the one hand the story is contrived and manipulative - who can resist a coterie of young female orphans and a dog? On the other hand the story is so well told, and acted, that it becomes irresistible. Director Foster revels in presenting the song and dance scenes, including tap, all bursting with brio, pizzazz and zip. Choreographer Nick Winston must have been looking over his shoulder when Revel Horwood was around!

Essentially this is about Annie, a young girl, and her dreams in a world beset by poverty, homelessness, economic adversity and her hope for a family and a better life. I loved it. The standing ovation at the end was richly deserved. Continues until Sat 14th then on national tour.

Gary Longden


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