Nothing amateur about Royal Hippodrome’s entertaining Annie

Annie at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Easbourne
Annie at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Easbourne

When asked to review the Royal Hippodrome Community Theatre Production of Annie, I did not know what to expect.

I had never seen one of their shows before and I was expecting an amateur rendition along the lines of a Play Gone Wrong. Also with a ticket price of just £15 or £10 for children I had low expectations.

This all changed on seeing a nine piece orchestra tuning up and the curtain rising. From the beginning it was clear that this was community theatre in but name only.

In fact on reading the programme it was not amateur theatre at all with many of the cast members actually having many credits to their names.

The staging was simple but effective with excellent lighting. The orchestra conducted by Rob Cousins was note perfect.

Having only watched the film before I was surprised at the differences between that and the stage version.

The great songs of course were all there, though there were some memorable additions such as the very catchy and perfectly executed NYC. Young Katie Hillyer as Annie sang Tomorrow with great gusto yet looked as though it was effortless. No disrespect to young child performers, but many of them have a tendency to overact, which I cannot stand. Not Katie however! Her characterisation of Annie was punchy yet calm at the same time with no hint of over acting.

In the stage version, Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks has far more musical numbers to sing. From his first note it was clear that Wayne Newton has an amazing voice. Richard Lock’s Rooster and Catherine Elliott’s Grace were worthy of any West End stage. The productions’ choreography and direction was slick and fast-paced which took the audience into the magic of the moment. The company numbers in particular were well executed both vocally and visually.

A special mention must be made of Lavinia Salisbury’s representation of the mordant Miss Hannigan. With hipflask never far away she nailed the character to a tee. Even when she was carted away by the police, you still felt empathy for the character as portrayed. This two and a half hour musical was over in no time. By Martha Monday.