From 10 July to 5 August, the cast of Broadway musical ‘Annie’ will be singing and dancing their hearts out on stage at Marina Bay Sands’ theatre. That’s a four-week run, which for a show that ran on Broadway for six years, is a drop in the box office ocean. One therefore hasn’t got much time to schedule in a show, but if one does, one will be glad to have made the effort.
Because this musical is a delight from beginning to end. As the story goes — little redhead Annie (Ella Crossland, Charlie Hall, Katie Howard) and her bevy of orphans live in the grim and hopeless municipal orphanage of New York City, under the sloppily watchful eye of desperate drunk Miss Hannigan (Su Pollard). All the orphans dream of escaping this sorry institution and of being reunited with their parents.
Fate smiles one day on Annie when a mega-tycoon of the city, Oliver Warbucks (David McAlister), invites her to live in his palatial household for two weeks over Christmas as a charitable gesture. After an awkward start, the stiff and rather brusque Warbucks and the irrepressible Annie warm up to each other, helped by his gracious personal assistance Grace Farrell (Simone Craddock), and are soon inseparable. Warbucks announces his intention to adopt Annie, only to be told by her, that as much as she loves him, she wants to find her real parents. And so the search begins, fuelled by a handsome reward dangled by Warbucks — which Miss Hannigan and her crooked brother Rooster (Michael Watson) and his shady girlfriend Lily St Regis (Emily Trebicki) catch wind of. They cook up a scheme to pass Rooster and Lily off as Annie’s parents, but the Warbucks camp smells a rat. The Hannigan crew are thwarted, the adoption goes ahead, and everyone rejoices.
Ten-year old Crossland from Devon, England, one of the three young actresses that plays Annie, was a firecracker as Annie on opening night. Her pitch perfect voice, jaunty performance and poise on stage were everything one expects from a child lead, and she never missed a beat. For a child her age to carry a full-length musical with finesse and consistency is no mean feat, and Crossland and her fellow Annies deserve all the admiration they get.
The pack of nine orphans, played by kids discovered at auditions in Singapore — whose provenance range from a mix of local and international schools—won the hearts of the audience with their brilliant singing, exuberance and Mickey Mouse Club star quality, especially the tiny Chloe Choo who played the littlest orphan, cute-as-a-button Molly, on opening night.
Seasoned actress Pollard is highly entertaining as Miss Hannigan, hamming it up to a T. At once pathetic, humourous, mean, bawdry and always drunk, Pollard’s Hannigan was the perfect comedic villain and had the audience laughing at her antics all the way.
McAlister was a polished Daddy Warbucks, striking the right balance between being a hard, high-powered businessman who is more accustomed relating to staff than to children and being a softy at heart. His baritone was both booming and warm, his stature imposing and protective—and the scene where he takes Annie to The White House to meet President Roosevelt (Joe Conners), where the President and his stony-faced personnel break out into the musical’s anthem ‘Tomorrow,’ was impossible not to smile at.
And that’s where ‘Annie’ truly gets its strength — the optimistic, stick-in-your-head, sing along songs. From the bold ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ to the touching ‘Maybe’, Miss Hannigan’s oily ‘Easy Street’ and ‘Little Girls’ and the parody-like ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile’, ‘Annie’’s tunes have remained unforgettable since the show first hit Broadway in 1977. Needless to say, everyone knows ‘Tomorrow’ and its chorus ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow, you’re only day away.’
But don’t wait another day to watch ‘Annie’ in its Singapore run.