Young talent shines in ‘Annie’

Operatic Society dazzles like there’s no tomorrow

Wednesday, 28th March 2012, 1:07 pm

As on the three previous evenings, there was a near-to-packed house on Saturday as the curtain went up for the final time on Berwick Operatic Society’s production of the much-loved musical ‘Annie’.

The film version is a staple of many a child’s viewing diet, with its red-headed leading lady Aileen Quinn one of cinema’s most recognisable young faces.

Stepping into the spotlight at The Maltings with appropriately coloured hair, the Operatic Society’s own Annie, Georgina Faed, got the show off to a fantastic start with ‘Tomorrow’, a song that was to be repeated at various intervals, striking a chord with the audience every time.

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Georgina was the brightest light in a whole galaxy of young stars in ‘Annie’, with her peers taking on the roles of the children who found themselves in an orphanage run by the formidable Miss Hannigan.

To liken her intolerance of children to that of The Child Catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration but her young brood weren’t going to let that get them down. In ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’, they bemoaned their daily routine, but the girls in the parts managed to make it a really rousing and spirited number, complete with some effective well-timed choreography with mops and buckets.

All of the girls were fantastic from start to finish with principal orphans Amelia Bell, Elycia Brocker-Penalver, Rebecca Lowe, Jess Calder, Eva Simpson and Colette Kaines-Laing leading the pack brilliantly.

Back to the catalyst of their rant: Louise Wood was fantastic as Miss Hannigan. Instead of following Carol Burnett’s film presentation of the character to the dot, Louise, in a starring role for the first time, took it in her own direction, one which led the audience on a hilarious journey.

From her drunken staggering to a powerful set of pipes as demonstrated in ‘Little Girls’ Louise’s Miss Hannigan was a character the audience couldn’t help but love in spite of her wicked ways.

It was Annie who bore the brunt of Miss Hannigan’s own frustration at being stuck in charge of an orphanage, and the chemistry between Georgina, the rest of the young chorus and Louise was fantastic, particularly in those scenes when the orphans were able to get their own back.

Annie escaped from the orphanage by way of a laundry cart and ended up on the mean streets of New York, giving the audience an airing of a song not in the 1958 film version – ‘We’d Like To Thank You’, a great showcase for the Operatic Society’s older chorus members to unite for a punchy number.

Annie’s quest to find her parents didn’t quite go to plan and she soon found herself at the beck and call of Miss Hannigan. Fortunately her reunion with the bane of her life didn’t last too long and she was soon in the home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

The man taking on the role of the chap who certainly wasn’t short of a bob or two was Bobby Hanlon and he really made the role his own.

At a time when older crooners are in vogue with Engelbert Humperdinck selected for Eurovision and Tom Jones on ‘The Voice’, Bobby showed he was right up there with them, paticularly during solo numbers ‘Why Should I Change A Thing’ and ‘Something Was Missing’. His voice and stature were perfectly matched to the part and even though he dwarfed young Georgina physically, their mix of youth and experience was the perfect combination.

Denise Clarke also got in on the action too as Warbucks’ advisor Grace Farrell, and having last been seen as Alice in Spittal Variety Group’s ‘Dick Whittington’, she made the transition from panto leading lady to a more glamorous role with ease, working well alongside Bobby and Georgina in numbers such as ‘You Won’t Be An Orphan For Long’ and ‘NYC’.

While Grace, Warbucks and Annie were bound for ‘NYC’, Miss Hannigan, after some persuasion from her brother Rooster and his moll Lily, had her sets sight on a shadier destination, ‘Easy Street’, at Annie’s expense.

The musical get-rich-quick scheme was a standout number of a different kind with Louise, Hamish Bell and Alison Fergie making themselves a trio the audience loved to hate, with an arrogant swagger that suited their roles down to the ground.

‘Annie’ was a family affair for the Faeds as leading lady Georgina’s father, Stuart, took on the role of a cabinet minister and radio star Bert Healy, treating the audience to a spirited rendition of ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile’, then reprised by the ever enthusiastic orphans.

With the action switching from the orphanage to Warbucks Mansion via the White House at a fast pace there were plenty of parts to fill and others who impressed included Ron Guthrie as Franklin D.Roosevelt, who like Georgina revelled in the high spirits of ‘Tomorrow’; Sarah Rooney and Amy Faragher who as well as being two quarters of singing sensations the Boylan Sisters were also two of Warbucks’ employees Cecile and Annette; Bob Curry who was laundry man Mr Bundles and head butler Drake; and a special mention to Glenn who played Annie’s canine companion Glenn. Uggie from ‘The Artist’ better watch his back!

Before the inevitable encore of ‘Tomorrow’, the show was brought to a close with ‘A New Deal For Christmas’, another song not on the film soundtrack but slotted in well on stage.

‘Annie’ was everything you could want from a musical: slippery bad guys – step forward the brilliant duo of Hamish and Alison; the resident good guy – Bobby Hanlon; and the loveable rogue, played so fabulously by Louise Wood.

But I’m sure the adults in the cast won’t mind me saying that it was the youngsters they shared the stage with who really brought the show to life. The young orphans owned the stage every time they set foot on it and with a controlled yet strong singing voice and fine acting, young Georgina put in a performance she, her family, castmates and director Kathryn Curry can be justifiably proud of.

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