Annie, the timeless musical set in the gritty backdrop of 1930s New York during The Great Depression, graces Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre this week with a production that oscillated between moments of brilliance and occasional shortcomings. The show unfolds within a visual marvel, courtesy of Colin Richmond’s set and costume design, transporting the audience seamlessly to a bygone era of hardship and hope. Yet, for all its creative triumphs, it’s a performance marked by uneven performances and a pervasive sense of one-dimensionality in its characters.
Colin Richmond’s design work merits commendation. It vividly captures the essence of the era, painting a poignant picture of a world marred by economic turmoil. Scenes transform between the orphanage and Warbuck’s mansion seamlessly, aided by some effective transitions.
Nick Winston’s choreography stands as the crowning creative achievement, breathing life into the production with a masterful display of dance sequences that engage and dazzle. Wilson’s choreography is truly a highlight of the show, helped, of course, by the cast executing this flawlessly.
The cast, while undoubtedly talented, delivers a mixed bag of performances. Craig Revel Horwood, as Miss Hannigan, showcases a formidable singing voice but falls short on the acting front. His portrayal lacks the depth and nuance required to fully embody this iconic character.
In contrast, Alex Bourne’s Oliver Warbucks leads the cast with charismatic precision. His portrayal was a standout among the cast, exhibiting charismatic precision that breathed life into the character. Bourne’s acting was exceptional, capturing the essence of a wealthy industrialist’s transformation from a stern, no-nonsense figure to a compassionate and loving father figure to Annie. Bourne’s singing was equally remarkable, a testament to his vocal prowess. His rendition of Warbucks’ songs resonated with the audience, conveying the character’s emotional depth and transformation. Whether he was belting out emotionally charged numbers or delivering tender moments of reflection, Bourne’s vocal performance added depth to the character and elevated the overall musical experience.
One of the production’s scene-stealers was David Burrows in the role of Roosevelt. His portrayal of this historically significant character was nothing short of impressive. Burrows breathed life into Roosevelt’s character with a commanding stage presence and nuanced acting. Burrows’ acting was a highlight of the show. He captured the essence of Roosevelt’s leadership, charisma, and eloquence with a remarkable degree of authenticity. His portrayal resonated with the audience, creating a character that felt historically grounded and richly developed.
Both the child and adult ensemble excels when they come together for group moments. Their collective energy and dedication shine through, making these scenes memorable. However, the occasional challenges with accents create moments of incomprehensibility, slightly marring scenes with dialogue in.
The technical aspects of the show merit applause. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design and Richard Brooker’s sound design effectively enhance the visual and auditory experience, contributing significantly to the overall atmosphere. The musical numbers, including classics like “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” and “Tomorrow,” resonate with their well-executed renditions. Joshua Griffith’s musical direction complements the live performance seamlessly, adding to the overall enjoyment.
A noticeable shortcoming in this production is the lack of character depth. Many figures appear one-dimensional in their writing, portrayal, or direction, robbing the narrative of the intricate relationships and emotional connections that could have been explored.
In summary, Annie at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre is a three-star performance, characterised by flashes of brilliance but also occasional inconsistencies. The dazzling visual design and impeccable choreography are certainly highlights, but they share the stage with moments of uneven acting and characters who, for the most part, feel underdeveloped. This classic musical continues to enchant with its iconic songs and historical backdrop, making it a worthwhile experience for fans of the genre, even though it may not achieve perfection across all fronts.
Annie is playing at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 21st October.