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March 27th 2015

Amazing Annie

In a complete departure from last year’s intense show “The Crucible Reimagined”, the recent production of “Annie” brought both tears and merriment as we followed the plight of little orphan Annie in the search for her long-lost parents. Not short of lights, dancing and glamour, “Annie” brought a West End feel to Cobham Hall.

With the production being held on three consecutive nights, it was with great excitement that the cast performed in the School’s historic Gilt Hall in front of a sell-out audience of 130 people each night.

Annie has always been a firm favourite for a large number of people, from many cultural backgrounds and all ages. The piece examines themes such as the gap between rich and poor and is partly a political commentary of that time. It examines homelessness, unemployment, hope, optimism and justice. The key message of the Musical is that while life can be difficult, it improves for those who remain optimistic.

From hobos to Presidents, and with stray mutts and drunks, the many schemers and dreamers of “Annie” allowed for a large cast, with many contrasting characters. From the diminishing bluster and bravado of Daddy Warbucks (sensitively played by Year 9’s Britta) to the brash and tyrannical Miss Hannigan (astonishingly well-depicted by Year 11’s usually quiet Eve), the character acting of this young cast has been fascinating to watch develop.

Head of Drama Kym Martin said “It has been a delight to work with the cast, crew and musicians on Annie. The students, most of whom are in the lower and middle school, have been professional, courageous and incredibly creative in the development of their skills and characterisations. The set, lighting, sound and the musicianship also equally delighted audiences.”

The cast, ranging from Year 7 to Year 13, have been working since January on a demanding schedule to prepare. With 30 musical numbers, pillow fights, great escapes and two scenes working with a real dog (who was exemplary, and has not left any unwanted “presents” – well done, Cardi!), the professionalism and team-work of all involved, including those behind the scenes working on costumes, props, lighting, choreography, and sound, was remarkable, and a key factor in the show’s success.

“They had to work hard and fast to learn the repertoire” says Miss Clements the Musical Director “and it’s fantastic that along-side the usual stars of the department we discovered new musical talents from girls who have never had anything to do with music before.”

A prime example of this is Year 7’s Maisy, cast as the eponymous Annie. This was her first theatrical performance. Maisy, who managed to fit rehearsals in around her gruelling athletics training as Year 7 Kent County cross-country champion, surprised her whole family with her new-found talents. We will definitely see her in more future productions.

Between intimate and introspective solos as little orphan Annie contemplates her future, and Miss Hannigan’s drawls and whinges about her life and being surrounded by little girls, there were times, when singing in full-company, that the cast raised the roof. “When they went for it, the sound was fantastic!” says Miss Clements.

From the many dance numbers, to the radio shows or the over-enthusiastic cabinet meeting, “Annie” had something for everyone, and reminds us all that no matter how bad things get “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” (Sorry, had to be done!)

Based on the 1924 Little Orphan Annie comics, the musical adaptation of “Annie” propelled the character to the status of a cultural icon; not only due to her appearance, with that mane of red, curly hair being instantly recognisable, but also for her embodiment of American individuality, spunk and self-reliance. Even those who never read the comic strip are keenly aware of the plucky orphan, her loveable mutt, Sandy, and her adoptive benefactor Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks – through both the Broadway Play, and the hit movies, and of course, not forgetting the beloved, well-known song “Tomorrow”.

Ms Martin, who directed and produced the show, explained the inspiration for choosing this iconic production: “I loved the 1982 movie version starring the phenomenal Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, the incomparable Tim Curry as Rooster and the legend of musical theatre that is Bernadette Peters, as Lily St Regis. Students also love this film and they were thrilled when I announced at the start of this term that we were going to be doing it for the school production this year. Since then the Hall has been alive with the sound of Annie and we hope that all who saw it, enjoyed it and were singing these catchy tunes all the way home!”

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