REVIEW: Annie, Grand Theatre, Lancaster

Marianne Bardgett and Bryan Wood in Annie.
Marianne Bardgett and Bryan Wood in Annie.
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NICK LAKIN writes... Lancaster’s Grand Theatre was packed to the rafters last Thursday night for the amateur performance of Broadway’s classic musical Annie.

Set in New York in 1933 during the Great Depression, Annie is the story of a little girl abandoned by her parents who can’t afford to keep her.

A sad story, but one with enough humour and hope that kids find it irresistible.

Morecambe Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society chose two actors to play Annie - 11-year-old Kate Bowskill and 13-year-old Marianne Bardgett - who was our Annie for the night on Thursday.

The show opened with an Annie medley by the orchestra in the pit, a great introduction and one that got the kids’ full attention.

Marianne opens the show following a radio broadcast contextualising the time and setting, and we’re soon immersed in the life of the young orphans and their hilarious antics under the tyrannical yet vulnerable leadership of the drunk Miss Hannigan.

Sarah Hicks plays her down to a tee, and doesn’t hold back on drunken bitterness.

I was impressed with the American accents from the characters, and the lights, props and backdrops captured the American Depression era perfectly. I’m always amazed by the skill and timing of those backstage to create completely new sets in just a few seconds, and it seemed effortless here.

Everyone sang their heart out, and you could tell a lot of fun was being had by all the actors.

Even I, who has inadvertently seen the film far too many times over the last year, couldn’t help but sing along merrily in my head to A Hard Knock Life and smiling at the innocence and resolve of the young orphans.

On a serious note, the story resonates today, and is not only a tragic picture of the harsh differences between rich and poor, but a lesson for many 21st century kids lucky enough to go and watch a show at the theatre that life is tough for many and we should take nothing for granted.

There can, however, always be a light at the end of the tunnel, and happily, there is for Annie.

Well done MAODS for pulling off such a big show with panache, grace and humour.