CAST: EMMA-ROSE BLACHER, CHARON WILLIAMS ROS, NEELS CLASEN, TARYN SUDDING, STPHEN JUBBER, DELRAY HALGRYN, MIKE HUFF, BEN MUNDY, RICHARD FOSTER, GEMMA SCARCELLA, TALICIA MARIRTI, KYRA TEAGUE, BONISIWE NOMOYI, KEZIA DU PLESSIS, LUCA TEAGUE
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: BRYAN SCHIMMEL
CHOREOGRAPHER: NICK WINSTON
DIRECTOR: NIKOLAI FOSTER
VENUE: TEATRO AT MONTECASINO AT FOURWAYS UNTIL NOVEMBER 27
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN
‘Annie’ and I go back a long way.
In the 1980s the Hollywood movie version came out with great fanfare and little Annie, played by Aileen Quinn, came to Johannesburg and gave interviews to the media. I remember talking to this bright, freckle-faced little girl and how impressed I was with her.
Previously, Burke-Brickhill did a production at the old His Majesty’s Theatre in Downtown Johannesburg, and then recently Hollywood re-visited the story with a “darker” version starring Quvenzhane Wallis (as Annie), Cameron Diaz (as Miss Hannigan) and Jamie Foxx (as Daddy Warbucks).
I am delighted to report that Nikolai Foster’s interpretation of this evergreen family favourite is right up there with the best; a magnificently executed production where every facet, from Annie and the Orphans, through Daddy Warbucks and Miss Hannigan, to Sandy the dog, shines brightly.
The Proudly South African cast provide the show with oodles of zesty appeal, which is impossible to resist. Add to this contagious mix a live orchestra, under the direction of the celebrated Bryan Schimmel, pumping out all those familiar songs, and you have a recipe for unbridled success.
The large Teatro stage allows the big cast ample space to move as the inspiring tale of orphan Annie (Emma-Rose Blacher), who gets a chance at a new life, thanks to New York billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Neels Clasen), unfolds.
There are three different casts who play ‘Annie’, the orphans and even Sandy the dog, and on media night young Blacher was handed the task of breathing life into her character – and she did it with great aplomb. This talented Capetonian sang her heart out, danced up a storm and wormed her way not only into the hearts of Warbucks and his staff, but also members of the audience.
Her performance was natural and believable and at no stage was her creation precocious, or over-the-top.
I had a few tears in my eye when numbers such as ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’ (where the orphans show their mettle in the orphanage), ‘Tomorrow’ (in which Annie injects a measure of positivity into the proceedings), and ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’, reverberated through the auditorium.
Each performer clearly defined the characters they played: from Charon Williams Ros’s mean-spirited, liquor-imbibing Miss Hannigan, to Neels Clasen’s gentle Daddy Warbucks, and Mike Huff’s dual roles as a policeman and the kindly wheel-chair bound President Roosevelt.
Stephen Jubber and Delray Halgryn make a sleazy pair of rascals out to rob Annie of her birthright by pretending to be her long-lost parents, and Taryn Sudding is the prim and proper Grace, Warbucks’ faithful PA.
Adding immeasurably to the show’s enjoyment are the striking costumes, the effective set design and the smartly choreographed dance sequences which bubbled out from the stage and engulfed the audience in its sheer vibrancy.
‘Annie’ is a must-see for the whole family and is going to be a very “hot” ticket during its Johannesburg run.