Review: Annie, Bristol Hippodrome - Strictly star Craig shines but the Labradoodle steals the show

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This smash-hit West End production is packed with earworms

There’s nothing quite like a full-throttle West End show to beat the winter blues. Luckily this smash-hit production of Annie has so many earworm classics in it, you’ll be singing them all the way home and, quite possibly, in work the next day.

Of course, it also helps when you have a household name like Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood in the cast - the Australian star rejoined the touring show to replace the late Paul O’Grady who was originally down for the role of Miss Hannigan.

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Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, the story revolves around little orphan Annie who decides to escape the evil clutches of gin-swigging orphanage matron Miss Hannigan in an attempt to track down her real parents.

Annie’s luck changes when she is chosen to spend two weeks over Christmas at the home of well-connected billionaire Oliver Warbucks who also sets about trying to help the orphan find her parents.

With its themes of poverty, loneliness and hope, this is an enduring show and although there is humour, there are also plenty of touching moments, too.

Sporting some ample falsies, suspenders and a revealingly flimsy negligee, Craig Revel Horwood - who started his career as a drag artist - plays the man-eating old drunkard with absolute perfection and although the dancer isn’t required to show off too many moves worthy of Strictly, he certainly shows he has a strong set of pipes on Little Girls and Easy Street.

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Annie the musical is packed with memorable songsAnnie the musical is packed with memorable songs
Annie the musical is packed with memorable songs

It’s worth noting that Craig is only appearing at the Hippodrome until Friday. The role is then taken on by Coronation Street star Jodie Prenger on Saturday.

On the opening night in Bristol, Annie was played by Sharangi Gnanavarathan, who is making her touring debut. She performed this iconic role with great confidence and her rendition of Tomorrow almost took the roof off. 

Her fellow orphans, some as young as seven, also gave it their all, especially on a boot-stomping, bucket-smashing It’s The Hard Knock Life.

They were backed by a dynamic and colourful ensemble of dancers and there were stand-out vocal performances from Alex Bourne (as Daddy Warbucks) and Amelia Adams (Grace Farrell).

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But despite some memorable performances from the cast, it was a well-trained Labradoodle called Amber - as Annie’s dog Sandy - who stole the hearts of the audience.

I think even Craig Revel Horwood would admit this fluffy member of the cast was simply ‘fab-u-lous’.

Annie is at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, November 25. Tickets are available here.

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