Review: Annie was instantly likeable

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Venice Harris is performing in Auckland's production of Annie. PHOTO/FILE
Venice Harris is performing in Auckland's production of Annie. PHOTO/FILE

Who doesn't love a rags-to-riches yarn? With midwinter setting in and the only thing to look forward to a general election, we could do with some optimistic cheer.

Enter Annie the Musical, which opened on Saturday at the Civic to an audience of Auckland's glitterati and media.

From its birth on Broadway to the classic movie, the older generation knows the tale well.

Red-headed orphan Annie escapes from the hard-knock New York orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks. Yet her heart is still set on finding her parents.

With some of the best -known songs in musical theatre (Tomorrow, It's The Hard-Knock Life, Easy Street) the cast of international adult theatre and TV stars and New Zealand children had a challenge-to reinvent Annie for modern audiences who have a healthy dose of cynicism.

And reinvent it they did -Zoe Fifield as Annie was instantly likeable, never too saccharine and carried the audience all the way.

The orphan chorus was outstandingly exhilarating -and Tauranga's own 7-year-old Venice Harris stole many a scene as the smallest orphan Molly. Also a crowd pleaser was the dog Sandy, who clearly seemed to enjoy the stage.

Su Pollard (of British sitcom Hi-Di Hi) was hilarious as the lush orphanage boss Miss Hannigan, and the adult chorus brought to life the dazzling sets of New York in the thirties.

The contrast between the deprived street corners and the orphanage with the want-for-nothing glamour of the Warbucks home told a strikingly visual tale of New York in the Great Depression which modern New Zealand audiences could well relate to.

The optimism of Annie enthuses even the polio-struck president FD Roosevelt, and the ending leaves us with a taste that philanthropy can beat the odds not just for individuals but in politics too.

By the end of the show you will be betting your bottom dollar that it can and as the cast reprises the songs for the curtain call...you will want to bounce in your seat with renewed hope that 'the sun will come out tomorrow'.

Whether the perfect idealistic escape or a true hint of the possible, Annie is a feast for the eyes and ears and a gorgeous dose of positivism which all ages will love.

Annie the Musical has a limited season in Auckland at the Civic from June 13 to July 6: anniethemusical.co.nz

- Annemarie Quill

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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