The Lyric Theatre, QPAC in Brisbane
“Not only don’t we have the chicken, we don’t have the pot”
Little orphan Annie is taken care of over Christmas by crusty billionaire Warbucks. He almost immediately wants to adopt her and but she’s never given up hope of her real parents coming back for her. While Warbucks attempts to find them for Annie, a plan is formed to pose as her parents and claim the reward.
I’ve always has a secret love of the songs in Annie. They’re catchy and fun. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this because Annie is a very popular musical with multiple film versions, several references/parodies in popular culture and ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ was used in some sort of gansta mash up in one of the Austin Powers sequels. So despite the fact I don’t like children in the theatre on or off stage, I went to see Annie.
Of course I would have seen it anyway because Anthony Warlow was in it. I would see Anthony Warlow play in Rocky: The Musical (that’s a real thing). I have previously said that his involvement in a show acts as an assurance of the quality of that show. Oh Anthony, why must you turn my website into a house of lies? His talents in Annie are about as wasted as they would be in Rocky: The Musical (seriously, it’s a thing). Daddy Warbucks has two good songs and isn’t in the show for the first 30 minutes. Of course Warlow masters the role, using his physicality to show how uncomfortable he is with Annie at first and then how he warms up to her. Without Warlow’s talents, Warbucks inexplicably goes from crusty old man who doesn’t like children to wanting to adopt Annie in one song. And of course his ‘Something Was Missing’ is a soft tug at the heart but the man is capable of heart wrenching levels of emotion. I’m glad he’s been chosen to play the role on Broadway but I hope it isn’t long before they find something more worthy of his talents.
The songs and most of the characters were still there but the structure of Annie was just messy. The plot doesn’t flow neatly, especially in the first act. Film versions were right to omit the song ‘We’d Like to Thank You Hebert Hoover’ which drags out the start and completely contrasts with the tone of the other songs. Usually it’s sung sarcastically by people living in slums during the depression (which is depressing enough) but this production decided to make it more dramatic, frankly they turned it into something out of Les Miserables. Maybe they thought that with the economy right now people would relate better, but if you’re paying $100 for theatre tickets then you’re not feeling it. Highlighting the fact that millions are bitterly living in slums brings down the feel good end of orphans being adopted.
Carole Burnett is a comedian and she took the role of Miss Hannigan in that direction for the famous film version. The character is now more associated with being comically woeful which doesn’t mean it can’t be played differently but Nancy Hayes still makes the character too sinister, a woman that is completely indifferent to a plan that involves killing little Annie. Her only funny moment was calling Lily St. Regis (named after the hotel) a “dumb ho….tel.”
There were some good qualities to this production. Roosters dancing was fantastic, the background singers in ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile’ had their own little personalities that kept the song amusing and the end of ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ sounded great sung in the round. It just wasn’t enough to redeem a messy book.