You know how the song goes. It's hard not to smile when you sing (or hear) it. Annie and her fellow orphans have been charming audiences around the world since 1977. Although I'd never seen the show live on stage, Annie somehow managed to creep into heart of me and my friends a few decades ago. Set in 1933 at the Municipal Girls' Orphanage in New York, the story of a little girl rescued from an orphan's life by a dashing billionaire is the stuff that dreams are made of.
I was delighted to win tickets to see Annie at the St James Theatre last night. I imagined the audience to be overflowing with preening ballet mums and grand-ma'ams with their precious bairns in tow. Looking around, the audience was actually a much wider cross-section of ages and people-watching subjects, including groups of girls and women in their 20s and 30s no doubt reliving their childhood nostalgia like I was.
Much was made of the international cast in the lead-up to the show and there were a few standout performances. I really enjoyed David McAlister as Oliver Warbucks and Mig Ayesa as Rooster. Annie and the orphan girls' performances were really well polished and oh, so upbeat. It's easy to get lost in the mood when surrounded by a troupe of joy germs.
Sadly, the show was let down by dreadful sound quality. From where we were sitting (about seven rows from the front, slightly left of centre), the sound was very loud and trebly enough to be piercing, especially when being bombarded by nasal, fake American accents. I could barely make out the lyrics over the orchestra during the big numbers. AND THERE WAS SO MUCH SHOUTING! So, so much shouting in the show - and then a little girl was blowing a whistle and someone else was ringing a bell. Don't get me wrong; I've made a lot of noise myself performing on stage over the years but I shudder to think that we'd ever subjected an audience to sound that was bordering on painful to listen to. Two women a few rows ahead walked out during the first act. They missed a great show but I understand why they had to move.
Annie and her friends move to Auckland soon for the second half of their New Zealand tour. The show is enjoyable and well worth seeing. I just hope the crew at The Civic do a better job of the sound than their Wellington counterparts.