'A good night but not an outstanding one' - Review of Annie at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Ava Smith stole the show as Annie in the Broadway hit musical which has rocked up in Edinburgh for a short stay at the Playhouse.

By Catherine Salmond
Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 6:00 pm

Making her professional debut, Smith's portrayal of the red-headed orphan growing up in New York during the Great Depression was convincing and heartfelt.

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Don't miss Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph in Annie at the Edinburgh Playh...

Alone on stage, Smith's belting out of Maybe and Tomorrow seemed effortless.

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Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan in Annie. Picture: Edinburgh Playhouse

Directed by Nikolai Foster, the production varies vastly from the well-known 1982 film version (and indeed the 2014 remake) of the original theatre production, which was first performed in 1977.

One of the differences - and indeed the stage version's strengths - is the handling of the social issues under examination in Annie, which is based on a comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, by Harold Gray.

America in the 1930s, its economical turmoil and the impact this had on its citizens, is depicted very well throughout, best so in the Hooverville scene where Annie, having run away from the Municipal Girls Orphanage, comes face-to-face with people who have been made homeless as a result of the devastating economic collapse.

Unfortunately, for the Annie fans who are most familiar with the 1982 film version - which was likely most of the Playhouse audience - Lesley Joseph's take on the character of Miss Hannigan - the sneaky, drunken orphanage manager who plots to kidnap Annie - fell short of Carol Burnett's presentation of the role in the film.

National treasure Joseph (best known as Dorien Green in Birds of a Feather) did not give a performance that shone like the top of the Chrysler Building, instead somewhat lacklustre, devoid of even an attempt at an American accent. A missed opportunity.

Despite this, it was a strong production, with Alex Bourne embracing the role of Daddy Warbucks - the self-made billionaire who goes on to adopt Annie - and Carolyn Maitland shining as his personal assistant Grace Farrell.

Much humour was brought to the stage through Richard Meek and Jenny Gayner who played Rooster and Lily, the money-grabbing couple who team up with Miss Hannigan in a plot to steal Annie and bag $50,000 of Mr Warbucks' money.

A good night at the Playhouse - but not an outstanding one.

3/5 stars.

Annie, Edinburgh Playhouse, runs until Saturday.