Annie Review – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Annie 2023
Image Source: Liverpool Theatres

This is our review of Annie at Liverpool‘s Empire Theatre!

Description Of Annie

Everybody knows the story of Annie, the plucky little orphan who wins the heart of billionaire Oliver Warbucks during the Great Depression, and escapes the clutches of evil orphanage-keeper Miss Hannigan and her even more avaricious and morally bankrupt brother Rooster and his sleazy squeeze: the 1977 film has become almost iconic and the story has passed from comic strip to film to stage musical whose popularity has never waned.

This is interesting as Strouse, Charnin’s & Meeghan’s musical heroine was originally a Dickensian sort of character akin to Oliver Twist or David Copperfield – an abandoned child living through a period of poverty and deprivation, but enjoying a fairy tale redemptive ending.

Analysis Of Annie

If you’re only familiar with the film then you may be surprised at the inclusion of the original songs, ‘We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover” and ‘A New Deal for Christmas’; in the former, a ‘Hooverville’ shanty town comprising people fallen on hard times and now homeless, ironically and sarcastically toast the former president. The set is intriguing, hung as it is with huge illuminated assorted jigsaw pieces – indicating that the orphans are the lost or missing pieces in others’ families.

It’s clear that the big draw for this production is Strictly baddie Craig Revel-Horwood – and although he may not have full mastery of his accent (ranging from ‘Noo Yalk’ to discernible London intonations), he has a great belting voice, can carry a song tunefully and throws himself into the part with abandon (and in heels!) – without camping it up unduly. Alex Bourne’s Warbucks is the biggest revelation – almost the antithesis of Albert Finney’s bluff and blustering film portrayal – with his gentleness, restraint, and delicacy – which makes him potentially losing Annie even more poignant than in the film.

Other Thoughts

A special mention too, goes to Paul French‘s Rooster, a compelling, unctuous Machiavellian creation, who doesn’t flinch at the thought of infanticide. (The standout musical number is the bawdy and sleazy Easy Street – which allows the bad guy characters to let rip and tear up the stage). However, the ensemble cast of dancers and chorus lifts this production to something more substantial. That’s courtesy of their full-throated, pitch-perfect singing, flawless dancing, and completely winning gusto and brio.

You may wince slightly at the syrupy, ultra-optimistic ending as it stretches credulity. That’s where Annie meets President Roosevelt, who kick-starts his New Deal due to the inspiration of Annie. But I do defy anyone not to get a lump in their throat on hearing Zoe Akinyosade’s Annie plaintively yet hopefully warbling the lyrics to Maybe.

Summary Of Annie

All in all, this is a solidly entertaining, sweet, somewhat old-fashioned, and well-made musical, with a superlative supporting cast. Come for Craig Revel-Horwood; stay for the quality ensemble. Annie is at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday 10 June. Details and ticket links are here.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good