Talented locals join star-studded cast of much-loved children’s musical.

In an age of diminished expectations Annie offers an unabashed celebration of the irrepressible optimism that fuels the American Dream.

However unattainable that dream has become, its guiding principle, that getting rich is a good idea, makes perfect sense when voiced by an 11-year-old orphan determined to escape from a life of grinding poverty.

What sets Annie apart is the songs: A succession of great jazz-infused tunes carry us through the contrasting extremes of Depression-era America - from the brass-knuckle hustle of NYC to the cheesy vaudeville of radio-show jingles and the intoxicating extravagance of a billionaire's mansion.

This lavish British touring production oozes professionalism but remains full of heart, most particularly in the bubbling exuberance of the locally sourced chorus of orphans which includes a pint-sized waif who will melt the heart of the most hardened cynic.

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The staging emphasises the grittiness of the 1930s setting. There is real desperation in a shanty town for the unemployed that looks like something out of Dante's Inferno and the hard-knocks orphanage features a discipline regime that would have Sue Bradford howling with indignation.

Enthusiasts of British TV will have their hands full trainspotting cast members who have appeared in various small screen classics.

Hi-de-Hi's Su Pollard is a brilliant fit for the brassy broad who runs the orphanage. Her show-stealing performance is gutsy, outrageously theatrical and very human.

In a superb piece of method acting, Auckland-based canine Clyde is entirely convincing as a stray dog searching for affection and Mig Ayesa's rendition of Easy Street captures the intense yearning of a small-time crook with his eye on the main chance.

Aucklander Zoe Fifield, playing Annie on opening night, delivers an amazingly confident performance that is feisty, sassy and sweet.

It is difficult to think of a better way of blowing away the winter blues.

Musical review
What: Annie
Where: The Civic until July 6