Annie: The Musical

9 Aug

I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve been insanely busy with wedding plans and visa nonsense, but yesterday I took a break from all that when H surprised me with tickets to a matinee performance of Annie at the Regent Theatre. I love musicals and I love Annie, so I was super excited.

I guess it didn’t occur to H that a 1pm showing on a Wednesday would mean the place would be filled to the rafters with schoolchildren on a field trip and he was unpleasantly surprised to see how many noisy little nose-pickers there were. I admit, I was a bit worried about that, too, because children do not always make for the best audiences.

Fortunately, our seats were in front of a group of girls who seemed reasonably well behaved and calm. As it turned out, most of the kids were sufficiently entertained by the performance that they were quiet during the show, becoming restless only as the intermission approached.

I’ve seen a lot of shows in my day, from low budget productions up to professional ones. I have quite a few years of experience in theatre, so I really appreciate what goes into these shows and everything that has to happen in order to create a magical performance.

Annie was probably one of the best productions I’ve seen. The adult cast is filled with well known Australian actors and the children’s cast is filled by local girls who rotate out the parts every night, so there are three different Annies and three sets of orphanage girls. Among the adults, Julie Goodwin as Grace Farrell really stood out to me. Her dancing was just superb and she has an amazing voice.

And as good as the adult actors were, the little girls really stole the show. Not only were they adorable and talented, but unlike the adult actors who sometimes seemed to be running on autopilot (and who can blame then after doing the same show twice a day for three months?), the children had a lot more exuberance and passion. The rendition of It’s a Hard Knock Life was probably the highlight of the show for me.

And not only were the actors fantastic, but so was the orchestra. The sets were beautifully designed and all the set changes happened seamlessly. Many of the kids in the audience seemed quite impressed by the way the pieces of the set seemed to move on their own during scene changes. No doubt many of them had never been to the theatre before and it was all new to them.

Something that was amusing for me was the fact that Annie is set in 1933 New York City and so of course there are a lot of references to America and American culture at the time. While I had no trouble understanding all of these things, most of the kids in the audience and even some of the adults probably missed out.

For example, in one scene, Miss Hannigan is listening to the radio when an advertisement for Jello is playing. Nobody in Australia even knows what Jello is! They don’t have it here. In another scene, after Daddy Warbucks invites President Roosevelt around for Christmas Eve dinner, he shouts to the staff to “find out what Democrats eat”- a line that would have induced peals of laughter from an American audience evoked only a handful of chuckles from the Australians.

At the end of the show, something happened that I have never seen before in my life at any performance. One of the actors, Bert Newton who played FDR, gave a rather longish and boring speech that culminated in a fundraising solicitation, asking people to make a donation to some fund to help make theatre accessible to young children on their way out.

I don’t know if such solicitations are the norm in Australia- I do notice that there are a lot more charity solicitors out and about here in Melbourne than I have ever seen in any other city in the world, so maybe it’s normal here- but frankly, I was quite put off by that. For those of us who didn’t come with a school group, tickets start at $100 for nosebleed seats and then they try to fleece you by selling you programs for $20 (I remember when a program used to come free with the ticket!) and Choc-Tops and bottled water for $5 a piece. Asking us to empty our pockets yet again is insulting. The only Hoover flags I want to see at the theatre are on the actors playing the homeless people in the shanty town.

But aside from that little etiquette faux pas, it was a really enjoyable production.

Unfortunately for everyone in Melbourne, the show is winding down, having been playing for nearly three months already. This is the last week to see the show before it goes to Perth for five weeks. Brisbane and Sydney have both already had the show in their cities. But if you live in Perth, I definitely recommend seeing it.

One Response to “Annie: The Musical”

  1. maggiemyklebust August 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Lucky!
    (I love Annie)

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