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Phil Willmott

Annie Returns to the West End

Miranda Hart - Annie the Musical With Charlie and his Chocolate factory recently leaving the West End for Broadway it seems right that ANNIE, the archetype Broadway kids show will be revived in London to help fill demand for family shows.

Not that there's any shortage of productions competing for your family's money. Once they were few and far between but now most theatres present a daytime kids show, installed to be performed on top of the set for the evening show.

ANNIE is special though in that it's just as likely to appeal to nostalgic adults because the story of the orphan girl trying to find parents in depression era New York has been delighting us for three decades now and many of the little girls who first rooted for the loveable urchin in the 1970s are now grandmothers and just as likely to enjoy it as their daughters and granddaughters.

And there's a lot to enjoy. For a start you get to see a lot of very talented kids perform in central roles. Almost as an answer to the musical OLIVER which put little boys centre stage in the the 1960s, Annie revolves around a troop of little girls hoping to be adopted and living under the tyrannical regime of orphanage proprietor Miss Hannigan.

She's desperate, stupid and villainous and it's a great part for a celebrity, many ageing sit-com actresses have played the role in revivals and a couple of men in drag too. Miranda Hart will be doing the honours this time. Miss Hannigan is mean and Hart's persona is warm and bumbling so it'll be interesting to see how these two things mesh.

The musical has a big brassy score and sounds like old fashion broadway, including a song celebrating New York called, appropriately, N.Y.C. The heart tugging numbers the lonely girl sings include that classic show tune promising The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow. Oh, and she has a live dog with her on stage. He's an orphan too.

Amidst Annie's Dickensian rags to riches story, she's soon adopted by a grumpy millionaire who's heart she melts, there's also a useful history lesson.

The show is based on a carton character featured in 1930's American newspapers. This was a dark period in the U.S. which brought financial ruin to many. Upbeat Annie encounters many historical figures which will give kids an insight into the shanty towns and White House shenanigans of the time. When I last saw it, on Broadway, the production began with a little film giving the historical context of the musical before it unfolded.

This production has been touring for a while. Hopefully the producers will spruce it up a bit for the West End. If they do, and Miranda Hart can be mean enough, the production could be a must-see summer holiday treat for kids of all ages.