Talented Longridge Towers cast revel in the Hard Knock Life

‘Annie’ is essentially, the ultimate school play in that it’s witty high spirited fluff for the kids, eye-dabbing tender songs about lonely orphans for the mums and just naughty enough to engage the dads without having the Vicar spit out his falsies into his brandy glass.

After an overture that went on for about the same time as it takes to watch the entire series boxset of The Sopranos (and giving Annie enough time to clean almost everything that stood still on the entire stage) we were off. Annie and her gang all sharing the one bed sheet and starting the show off in style with the tender lullaby ‘Maybe’ then before you can say “Yo waddup, Longridge Posse in da hissay!” they were at it again belting out ‘Hard Knock Life’ with such gusto I was half expecting Jay Z to walk on!

The leads were all played well and sensitively. Daisy Sawyer was tremendous in the title role balancing the sweetness and street savvy very well. Sheona Dorrian was equally fantastic as Annie’s nemesis Miss Hannigan who threatened to steal the show with her boozy sarcasm and startling singing ability.

After a botched escape attempt Annie was back at the orphanage long enough for Miss Hannigan to give us a Broadway worthy performance of ‘Little Girls’, only to be carted off to spend Christmas with entrepreneur Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks by Laura Regan as Grace Farrell; Warbucks secretary. Nathaniel Forsyth was deliciously dead-pan as Warbucks, bringing the odd touch of Woody Allan neuroticism to the role.

Following another bit of song and dance by an entourage of butlers and french maids followed (imagine J Lo’s house if she was alive in the 1920’s) and as a treat; Grace and Warbucks took Annie out to the movies which gave young Nathan a chance to show us his Morrisey-like tenor.

So far, so absolutely barking mad - and that’s without even mentioning Angus Keenan as Sandy the dog/walking shag-pile rug. Now for some plot! Enter Rooster (an unhinged Johnny Whiting) and Lilly (played by wacky wig wearing Rachel Laird). From the sleazy get up and witty cat-a-banter, you can tell something danger-shaped was heading Annie’s way in Act Two...

The second half ramped up the pace and the whole thing kicked off rather splendidly with Charlie Faed as Bert Healy with his sweet voice and hideous waistcoat warming the hardest hearts.

We then moved back to the orphanage to find Annie’s chums listening in, they break into another tightly choreographed routine then, seemingly from out of nowhere, young Yelita Ali just “let go” and danced her little socks off. A spontaneous applause well deserved. Then, after the orphans decided to visit the President, there was more singing. This time from the cabinet (presidential rather than filing) and we discovered the show’s best male singer in the form of Harry Huddart.

This was definitely Longridge’s strongest outing yet at the Maltings. Well done to everyone involved in making this show a success.

RJW