We speak to Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood about his version of Miss Hannigan in the new Annie musical, as well as the Strictly phenomenon and more.

You’re more than halfway through the Annie tour now, what has been the highlight so far?

The reaction of the audiences. It’s been really well received and we’ve had packed houses too which is absolutely brilliant – everyone is there to enjoy themselves. It’s wonderful to see the smiles on everybody’s faces at the end of the show because it is a happy ending. Obviously, I play the tyrannical Miss Hannigan who’s either drunk or hungover in every single scene and I have great fun with that.

I get to sing, I get to dance and I get to act - and of course I get to wear eyelashes and fake nails… I love it. The Company are so talented, and the children are absolutely incredible. It’s hard to believe that kids at the age of eight and nine can do what they’re doing. They have so much confidence and are just amazing.

Zoe Akinyosade (Annie) and Company on stage in the Annie musical tour 2023.

Source: Paul Coltas

Zoe Akinyosade (Annie) and Company in the Annie musical tour - the show has received rave reviews.

Tell us about the lengths you go to get into character each night

It takes me two and a half hours to get ready so for a 7.30pm show, I have to be in at 5pm. It’s quite a commitment, but I love it. I suppose any performer is the same, such as when you’re doing Panto. I treat it as any other acting job and for me, I really enjoy it.

Craig posted a reel showing the transformation he undergoes each night to become Miss Hannigan…

This is your fourth time playing Miss Hannigan. How is she different this time round?

I’m playing her a little bit more sassy than I used to. You learn the part after you’ve done it. I play her as a man-hungry woman who’s misunderstood and who just wants to get out of the depression of 1930 and she’ll do anything to do that. I play her as a desperate woman looking for love and money.

Craig Revel-Horwood as Miss Hannigan in Annie the musical

Source: Paul Coltas

Craig says his favourite ever Miss Hannigan was the character portrayed by Carol Burnett in the 1982 Columbia film. 

What preparation did you do for the role?

I studied the New York accent and saw a coach for that. It’s set in 1933 and Annie has been at the orphanage for ten years already so Miss Hannigan would have been born in the 1800s. When you think of it like that, it’s a pretty old-fashioned New York come Jewish accent. Then I just thought of people who are desperate and drunk and I know plenty of them. 

“I get to sing, I get to dance and I get to act, and of course I get to wear eyelashes and fake nails… I love it.”

Why do you think Annie has stood the test of time?

There are also orphans in the world and there are always going to be people up for adoption. I think that’s why it still resonates and in the present climate, with mortgages going up and people not being able to spend any money, we’re heading for a Wall Street crash again. People can identify with how desperate the characters are; Miss Hannigan is living on the State and she’s got all these mouths to feed. She’s trying to make ends meet.

Craig Revel-Horwood (Miss Hannigan), Billie-Kay (Lily) and Paul French (Rooster) on stage in the Annie musical

Source: Paul Coltas

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, young Annie is forced to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.

You were sharing the role with Paul O’Grady, how have you adjusted following his passing?

We miss him terribly and of course, he only got to do two weeks of it. I pay homage to him every time I go to one of the cities he was meant to play at so his memory lives on.

Tell us more about your very busy year ahead

I’m working until the end of time! I’ve got panto the week after I finish Annie (I’m playing the wicked stepmother in Cinderella at the New Wimbledon Theatre), then I’m immediately into the Strictly Come Dancing live arena show, then I’m flying to Australia to film Dancing with the Stars Australia and then when I get back I’m doing another stage show which is a secret at the moment but it’s going to be amazing.

“I had no idea that Strictly Come Dancing would last for 20 years, it’s unbelievable.”

How do you feel about always playing the ‘baddie’?

I have been put in a wicked box and they won’t let me out (laughs)! One day, when I’m an OAP, I might get to play an old dad or something. I think I’ve missed my calling as the prince though, it’s going to be wicked queens from now on.

What’s your dream role?

Momma Rose in Gypsy. I’d also love to play King George in Hamilton. That would be fabulous. There’s still a lot I’d like to do but let’s just get through this year and next first. Then I’ve got my wedding in 2025.

Craig Revel Horwood

Craig was born in the Australian town of Ballarat and moved to Melbourne to begin his dance career which has spanned 40 years. 

Strictly Come Dancing celebrated its 20th year in May but you nearly didn’t go to the audition did you?

No I didn’t and I thought it was a complete disaster in the first few weeks but then it gained momentum and we received a lot of public support. That’s when it became enjoyable and I had really great fun.

It’s now in 60 countries worldwide which is amazing and now I’m Len Goodman’s age when he started. I had no idea it would last for 20 years, it’s unbelievable.

The formula is still the same and that’s why it’s successful worldwide, but the beauty is that the cast changes. You get to know new interesting and wonderful people that you may not have known of before and who you get to meet and fall in love with.

Who has been your favourite celeb on the show?

Ann Widdecombe. She represented exactly what Strictly stands for - people who can’t dance and learn to dance and she was very funny.

You’ve had an incredible career spanning 40 years, what are most proud of?

Becoming a director/choreographer. Sunset Boulevard was one of my favourite shows I ever did in the West End, I really loved that show, it was incredible. My first choreographic gig in the West End was Spend, Spend Spend, which I totally fell in love with so that has special memories for me. But there have been so many things.

Craig on…

…his ideal type of holiday: I loved the Maldives - if I had two weeks off that’s exactly where I go. But I like all types of holidays – winter and summer. I like skiing and love going to Australia, places like Tasmania and Broome in Western Australia. 

…his must-have items on tour and travelling: Apart from the eyelashes, an electric toothbrush and my coffee machine which comes everywhere with me.

…what he does before each performance: Put a Berocca tablet in my water bottle for energy, plus health and wellbeing. 

…the most bizarre thing he’s had from a fan: Somebody made a pizza made of my face!

You did Craig & Bruno’s Great British Road Trips series on ITV with Bruno Tonioli in 2021, where did you love the most?

Wales stood out for me; I thought it was brilliant because I haven’t explored that much. Devon and Cornwall are both beautiful and I have done driving trips there myself in my classic car. The series was amazing, we’re hoping to do another one if we’re ever free again.

Which locations left on the tour are you particularly looking forward to?

Plymouth because I’ve got good friends there and it’s where I’ve done a lot of shows from the beginning like Spend, Spend, Spend. We’re going to Dublin in Ireland and that’s where I did Cats in 1989 so that holds many memories. 

How do you want audiences to feel after seeing Annie?

I want them to laugh, I want them cry, I want them to feel emotional, I want them to feel joy at the end, and I want to feel that they’re on cloud nine and that they’ve seen something really special and spectacular. And I want them to walk out singing the tunes.

Annie is touring theatres across the UK until November including Milton Keynes Theatre (7th-12th August).

For information and tickets go to anniethemusicaltour.uk