NODA REVIEW by Nova Horley
A great overture, from a super band under the baton of Graham Thomson – the quality of the players shone through and gave us some wonderful musical moments.
The sets were mostly fine for the era and show in general – although I felt the production was a little let down technically, with late lighting and mic cues. Although the lighting was good overall, in some cases I felt it was a little too modern for the production.
Costumes were all very suitable and looked good. I liked the servants costumes very fresh looking, whilst principals all looked very smart, and Daddy’s costumes looked exceptionally fine on the day.
I liked the sweeping staircase in the Warbucks mansion – and the dressing of the set was suitable, the Christmas tree with lights left on in the blackouts was particularly evocative.
The night I was there Connie Jenkins-Grieg played the part of Annie – a very accomplished and self-confident performer, Connie also gave the songs a lot of expression. I liked what she achieved. I understand Gracie Weldon who was the other Annie, although younger than Connie, also gave a super performance. HLOS were very lucky with their child performers, who are the lynchpin of the show, and the team of girls performed very well.
Connie managed Sandy the dog very well, whilst singing Tomorrow – she kept the dog under control and also kept the meaning of the song well.
I liked the Star-to-be section in NYC, the dance was unexpected but well done, inaccurate sound balance at the start, but Sarah Johnson stuck it out, and the second half of the song showed her strong voice, which I enjoyed.
The other good choreographic section was I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here – I thought the somersault from Annie over the servants was very effective and accomplished, and it was generally performed well.
Overall I wanted more volume from the chorus, Hooverville seemed a bit too low level, I wanted passion as well as demoralisation at their situation. However, the servants seemed more secure and lively.
Claire Millins created a rather calm Miss Hannigan, a different take on the character, but it worked well, and she sang the part well.
Rooster was played by Seb Kainth, he missed a bit of the slyness and comedy of the part, and I missed the crowing, which is so much a part of the character, however, he got a good relationship with Lily. I thought Georgina Dalton gave Lily the sparkle and common feel to the character, which contrasted well with the other ladies of the cast, nicely done.
Fleur Baikie created a composed Grace Farrell, showing a good relationship with Annie and Daddy.
I really liked Richard Alexander’s portrayal of Daddy Warbucks, he got the strength of the business magnate, and the softening as he became fond of Annie. I particularly liked the poignant ending of Act 1 – Richard gave it a lot of feeling and a quietness that was touching.
The radio station scene was well played, with Steve Hathaway as Bert Healey, Tom Handley managing Corky the puppet, and the lovely Boylan Sisters played to the hilt by Louise Thonger, Gill Pigram and Kay Ward. The problem I had was that they and the table with Corky, the sound effects man and the masked announcer were too far back, so we missed a lot of the additional action. Also it wasn’t lit very well, so a few amusing bits that add to the action, were unfortunately not evident enough.
I liked the Cabinet scene, there were some good elements – David Talbot created some very amusing actions and facial expressions – and I thought the harmony was very good. Roger Monson created a good President Roosevelt.
So, all in all a competent production, which I enjoyed, lifted by the band, with a strong Annie and children’s cast.
For the week-long run Connie shares the lead on alternate performances with eight-year-old Gracie Weldon who, like Connie, made her debut with the society in their 2013 production of The Sound of Music.
Backing both girls were two teams of youngsters all playing the parts of children in a New York orphanage in 1933.
Unfortunately, I could only see Monday's first night but the children in general and Connie in particular, were splendid, not just enthusiastic but well drilled and thoroughly entertaining.
From the moment Connie stepped onto the stage there was not a trace of nerves and as the evening progressed she appeared to grow into her part to the delight of the audience.
Having seen Gracie in the 2013 production when she delighted the audience as the youngest of the von Trapp children, I feel sure her performance will be of the same high standard.
The storyline, although complicated by some theatrical twists, is basically that of an orphan who finds happiness thanks to the generosity of a new found friend.
Based on the strip cartoon Little Orphan Annie and originally produced on Broadway in 1977, Annie is packed with good music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin.
For Harpenden Public Hall's stage the cast is a little on the large side involving more than 50 people, including children and chorus, but even so there was plenty of room for good singing and dancing as well as excellent characterisation.
Claire Millins, a regular with the Harpenden society, gave a standout performance as Miss Hannigan, the cantankerous director of the orphanage, and Richard Alexander as the philanthropic Oliver Warbucks demonstrated not only good acting ability but also a very pleasing tenor voice.
Other notable performances were Fleur Baikie as Grace Farrell, Warbuck's assistant, Seb Kainth as the conman Rooster and Georgina Dalton as his sidekick Lily, as well as Brian Woods as Drake, Warbuck's butler.
The pit orchestra under Musical Director Graham Thomson was top class, although at times, because of the quality of the sound system at the Public Hall, it drowned the on-stage action.
The excellent direction and choreography was in the hands of Lucy O'Hare who last directed a show for the society in 2011.
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