[4_stars ]

Cast: Tom Hogan, Grace Galloway, Vanessa Booth, Daniel Greenwood, Frankie Magee, Matthew Parkinson, Alice Carlile, Eve McKechnie, Clara Moriarty, Asha Billington, Amber Rigley, Daisy Miller, Natalie Davies, Michael Scotland, Olivia Doyle, Charlotte Hanley.

The Liverpool Empire Stage Experience is one of the success stories of recent times. It really does give the youth of Liverpool a chance to shine, and like the production of two summers ago, the excellent Bugsy Malone, Annie shone as vibrantly as the neon lights of New York or London and for the young lady who played the eponymous Annie, the delightful and wonderfully cheeky Alice Carlile, she sparkled brighter than most who have played this part on a British stage.

It’s a big role to play, a lot hinges on the relationship between Annie and the audience. Get it wrong and the understanding, sympathy and adoration is lost. Get it right, give the crowd the right reasons to believe in you and they will love you all the way through the musical.

Annie is also a hard play for the young crowd making their appearance, perhaps for the first time, on stage and when they are portraying people much older themselves, with worldly wise approach to life, it’s a play than demands attention and a lot of dedication in actors so young.

Annie was performed a couple of years ago at the Liverpool Empire and this production was as near to the high standard that was created by the professionals. Not only was the relationship between Alice and the audience pitched at the right level, the bond between the principal leads was a joy to watch. Tom Hogan as Daddy Warbucks, Grace Galloway as Grace and Vanessa Booth as Miss Hannigan were spot on and well performed.

It would be easy to be disparaging to a performance given by a troupe of actors making their initial start into the world of theatre, there really isn’t any need. For anyone who falls in love with Annie as a production will tell you, it’s a about belief and luck; in this production there were bundles of energy from every quarter of the cast and the rendition of Hard Knock Life was certainly one of the best performed at the historic Liverpool Theatre.

Quite rightly it’s a musical that does leave the heart feeling very joyful every time you see it, no matter whether given by professionals or those making their way into the realms of theatrical productions.


Ian D. Hall