The sun may come out tomorrow, but the stars were out on Tuesday night for the opening of Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society’s 2015 show, Annie.
Set in Depression-era America, it tells the story of an irrepressible red-haired orphan who smiles and sings her way through her troubles at the dismal Municipal Orphanage for Girls, run by the dreadful Miss Hannigan.
Chosen to spend Christmas with billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Annie captures his heart. When she tells him about her sad history, he offers up a reward to help her find her parents, calling on the might of the President himself, as well as the FBI.
Hearing about the money offered, Miss Hannigan, her jailbird brother Rooster and his girlfriend, Lily St Regis, hatch a plan to disguise themselves as Annie’s long-lost parents, claim the reward and get rid of Annie.
Will they succeed? Or will the good guys smell a rat?
This is a show that asks a good deal of its younger cast members, particularly the girls chosen to play Annie, and not just because of the wig. Jess Thomson, who took the role of Annie on Tuesday night, managed to capture just the right mixture of energy and sass and, in her quieter moments, the wistful hope of a girl who has seen some hard times in life.
All of her solos – and there are quite a few – were note-perfect: even the tricky belter ‘Tomorrow’, during which she also had to keep control of a small border terrier.
In fact, if I have one complaint about this show, it would be that ‘Sandy’ behaved impeccably – because everyone loves a Blue Peter moment.
But that’s being picky.
As for the orphans – there was apparently some stiff competition at casting time this year, and this won’t come as a surprise to the audience. The girls gave us near-faultless dialogue, high-energy songs and not a duff accent between them. And that’s not easy. They were a joy to watch.
The adults didn’t let the side down either. Val McLean was hilarious as Miss Hannigan, a woman driven to the far edge of reason by the “Little Girls” in her care.
Dodgy Rooster was brought brilliantly to life by Robin Mitchell, as was Rooster’s girlfriend, Lily St Regis, by Yvonne Mitchell.
The baddies’ song “Easy Street”, with Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily, was a musical highlight, delivered by three performers with terrific stage presence. That suit, though.
Raymond D’Agrosa shone as Daddy Warbucks, at first gruffly resistant to Annie’s charms, then visibly softening as he fell under her spell. Karen D’Agrosa’s aptly-named Grace brought poise to the stage, as well as a lovely voice.
Also enjoyable was Peter Robertson as a slightly doo-lally President Roosevelt.
Many of the adult cast members took on multiple parts in this production. It’s a testament to their acting ability that this was never particularly noticeable.
Annie has over the years gained a rather unfair reputation for saccharine sweetness, but the show has a harsh social backdrop, and ‘We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover’, a sarcastic tribute to the President who oversaw the economic crash, was delivered with real bite.
The orchestra, under the direction of Nancy Muir, did a brilliant job, subtly adjusting pace when called for. Meanwhile, the backstage crew rendered themselves all but invisible, which is as good as it gets.
This was a great ensemble performance, all cast members displaying an infectious enjoyment, and SAOS sent their audience out into the cold February night with smiles on their faces. Well, they wouldn’t have been fully dressed without one, after all.
Annie –Jess Thomson /
Molly – Rachael Grant /
Pepper – Aimee Goodship / Carys Thomson
Kate – Erin Christie /
Tessie – Catriona Lamb /
July – Annabelle Lugton /
Duffy – Holly Nichol/
Daisy – Lisa Anderson /
Riley – Tia Douglas /
Amber – Kara Roberts /
Sadie – Layla Aziz /
Ginger – (Wed, Fri and Sat mat) Christie Jean Lynn
Miss Hannigan – Val McLean
Bundles McClosky – Robin Murray
Lt Ward – Alistair Pattullo
Sandy – Meg
Sophie – Joy Snape
Oliver Warbucks – Raymond D’Agrosa
Grace Farrell – Karen D’Agrosa
Drake – David Mitchell
Mrs Greer/Radio Producer – Sandra Oliver
Mrs Pugh – Joy Snape
Annette – Nicole Robertson
Cecille – Tracey Freedman
Star to Be – Freya Hoppe
Rooster – Stuart Mitchell
Lily St Regis – Yvonne Mitchell
Bert Healy – Ian Wilson
Fred McCracken – Robin Murray
Jimmy Johnson – Lewis Wilde
Sound Effects Man – Alistair Pattullo
Radio Producer – Sandra
The Boylan Sisters – Ellen
McFadzen, Tracey Freedman, Nicole Robertson
Franklin D Roosevelt – Peter Robertson
Harold Ickes – Robin Murray
Henry Morganthau – Lewis Wilde
Frances Perkins – Tracey Freedman
Cordell Hull – Alistair Pattullo
Louis Howe – Andrew Thoms
US Marine – Kyle Fairbairn
Justice Brandeis – Ian Wilson