Little orphan Annie with Strictly judge is not a drag

DIANA ECCLESTON waltzed over to Wimbledon to witness a fab-u-lous musical performance

Even Craig Revel Horwood might score his own performance in Annie with a 10

Even Craig Revel Horwood might score his own performance in Annie with a 10

I don’t actually approve of men taking women’s plum roles on stage – as David Suchet has done with Lady Bracknell – since there are so few decent roles for women about. Gender-swapping should be confined to panto.

Or at least that’s what I thought until I saw Strictly Come Dancing‘s resident Mr Nasty Craig Revel Horwood in action in the latest version of Annie, the musical, being performed this week at the New Theatre Wimbledon.

He plays the orphanage harridan Miss Hannigan, and to borrow a phrase from Strictly‘s notoriously critical judge, he is absolutely FAB-U-LOUS dahling!

All tits and pointed toes, he plays the lady straight and when it comes to his singing (better than OK) and dancing, he is as good as his words and gives the character a real wow performance.

The musical about the adventures of little orphan Annie has been a crowd-pleaser since it premiered on Broadway in 1977.

Everything about this touring version is spot-on, from the set and the lighting to the exciting new choreography and the costumes. Director Nikolai Foster and the whole creative team deserves straight 10s. And, of course, the musical has a toe-tapping score featuring such memorable numbers as Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, New Deal for Christmas and the show-stopping tear-jerker, Tomorrow.

Annie logo

Revel Horwood and the company of this production of Annie have given the show fresh life

The cast uses three teams of “orphans”, and on the press night we saw Team Astoria headed by the simply marvellous 12-year-old Isabella Pappas as Annie. A Sylvia Young pupil, she has already been nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance in The Nether and is a proper little star, more than able to hold a stage on her own.

Alex Bourne melts your heart as billionaire Oliver Warbucks as he falls under Annie’s spell and decides to adopt her, only to find she’s still determined to find her birth parents.

And Holly Dale Spencer is a charming secretary Grace Farrell, giving the girl far more oomph than is sometimes the case.

Icing on the cake is Sandy (played superbly by Amber), the dog every animal-lover will want to take home with them after the show.

I thought an opportunity was lost during the festive finale when Annie is reunited with Sandy. I’ve seen him come bouncing out of a huge surprise Christmas box, but here he just sort of runs on.

And one minor complaint: Miss Hannigan is seen picking nits out of the hair of one of the orphans. Craig R H has clearly never had to do such a thing – it’s a laborious task as many parents will know. Or am I just nit-picking?

Annie is at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday. On that day, the role of Miss Hannigan will be played by a woman, in this case Lesley Joseph. Apparently, Revel Horwood has commitments elsewhere that night…

  • Diana LyneDiana Eccleston, pictured right, is a Croydon resident and an experienced arts and theatre reviewer for local newspapers
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