Review: Annie with Craig Revel Horwood is a 'fab-u-lous' treat on Milton Keynes stage

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Alan Wooding reviews Annie at Milton Keynes Theatre

If you’re planning on going to a theatre this week, you’re in for a real treat if it’s in Milton Keynes as the musical Annie is the perfect show for the whole family with familiar songs guaranteed to get your feet tapping.

When Annie first opened in London’s West End in 1978 – 12 months after its Broadway debut – it became a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Five years on, the 1982 film version starring Albert Finney as billionaire Oliver Warbucks became a huge hit all over again.

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The current touring version features the brilliant Alex Bourne as ‘Daddy’ Warbucks alongside versatile Strictly Come Dancing judge and top choreographer Craig Revel Horwood. Craig plays tyrannical orphanage proprietor Miss Aggie Hannigan, the talented 58-year-old Australian having taken over the role following the untimely death of Paul O’Grady in the spring.

Zoe Akinyosade (Annie) and company (photo: Paul Coltas). Annie was played on the opening night by Harlie BarthramZoe Akinyosade (Annie) and company (photo: Paul Coltas). Annie was played on the opening night by Harlie Barthram
Zoe Akinyosade (Annie) and company (photo: Paul Coltas). Annie was played on the opening night by Harlie Barthram

Set in the 1930s Great Depression in New York, Annie and her fellow orphans live a life of drudgery in Miss Hannigan’s run-down orphanage. But things suddenly change for our little heroine when Warbucks’ personal assistant Grace Farrell (Amelia Adams) gets to invite an orphan home for Christmas – Annie simply being in the right place at the right time!

With a dislike of children, Warbucks declares “orphans are boys”, yet he mellows and takes a shine to Annie (played by Harlie Barthram on Monday’s opening night), promising he’ll do all that he can to help find her biological parents. But as soon as the billionaire businessman offers a reward, Miss Hannigan’s crooked brother Rooster (Paul French) together with his gangster moll-style girlfriend Lily St Regis (Billie-Kay) hatch a plan to get their grubby hands on it!

Along the way we meet US President Franklin D Roosevelt (David Burrows) and smarmy radio host Bert Healy (Lukin Simmonds) while Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin’s musical score includes the wonderful Maybe and Tomorrow.

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Craig Revel Horwood is ‘a-ma-zing’ as the gin-soaked Miss Hannigan and brings the house down with his creepy, but witty, Little Girls and again when joined by Rooster and Lily in Easy Street. It’s Fab-u-lous!

The acting, dancing and singing is first class, especially by the orphans in It’s A Hard-Knock Life while Annie’s Maybe is a classic and is reprised throughout the show. There are three teams of youngsters rotated during the week while special mention of Annie’s lovely stray four-legged Labradoodle companion Sandy (Amber) who almost steals the limelight.

Colin Richmond’s clever set design is flanked by massive pieces of jigsaw puzzle while there are seamless changes between the orphanage, Warbucks mansion and the city street. The show is superbly directed by Nikolai Foster, the music provided by an eight-piece pit band under the direction of Joshua Griffith.

Annie certainly gives the whole family a fabulous evening full of fun, laughter, happiness and some sorrow.

Annie runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday August 12. Tickets cost from £13. Call 0844 871 7615 or visit to book.