Miranda Hart Miss Hannigan with the Orphans in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre  Photo credit Paul Coltas

Annie will leave you with tears in your eyes and a heart feeling ten times larger, says Laura Sexton after reviewing the new musical at Piccadilly Theatre in London.

It is hard to know where to begin when complimenting this production, but for me it is the casting that does it. The young ensemble of girls playing the orphans is inspirational. Their dancing, acting, singing and comedic timing cannot be faulted as they truly transport you into the story, which takes place in 1930s New York during The Great Depression.

Being a big fan of the 1982 film version of Annie, my worries about this West End production living up to my expectations quickly evaporated. It was even better than I had hoped.

I couldn't control the huge grin on my face after It’s a Hard Knock Life - and I could see I wasn’t the only audience member in high spirits. It’s hard to believe that such a young cast can be so talented and so professional.

Madeleine Haynes who plays the title role of Annie is sweet yet feisty and steals the show with her large smile and angelic voice. I admit to having a lump in my throat when she sang Maybe. The role of Annie will also be played by Lola Moxom and Ruby Stokes throughout the West End run and you can bet they are just as talented.

Holly Dale Spencer Grace Farrell, Ruby Stokes Annie and Alex Bourne Daddy Warbucks in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre  Photo credit Paul Coltas

Pictured: Holly Dale Spencer (Grace Farrell), Ruby Stokes (Annie) and Alex Bourne (Daddy Warbucks). (Photo credit: Paul Coltas).

Ellicia Simondwood who plays Molly, the youngest of the cast, is also brilliant. Her naivety and natural innocence really gives the part credibility, and her character is adorable.

Of course, I couldn’t write this review without mentioning comedian Miranda Hart, best known for her hit BBC sitcom Miranda, as well as other TV credits such as playing Chummy in BBC’s Call The Midwife. Hart brings an essence of herself to the infamous role of Miss Hannigan to make it original but she also keeps true to the character. Her wit, charm and excellent portrayal of the wicked orphanage owner is nothing short of brilliant and I couldn’t imagine anyone playing her better.

Haynes, Simondwood and Hart are not the only ones who give an incredible performance. Alex Bourne who plays a much softer Daddy Warbucks than in the film version, makes the audience fall in love with his kind voice, mellow tones and fatherly presence. Meanwhile, Holly Dale Spencer as Grace Farrell gives an equally endearing performance, complete with motherly qualities. And Jonny Fines and Djalenga Scott who play Rooster and Lily are the perfect scheming duo and give the most convincing American accents out of the cast.

I must also mention a most important four-legged cast member. Amber is the loveable labradoodle who plays Sandy, who, when on stage brings a ripple of ‘awhs’ throughout the theatre.

Djalenga Scott Lily, Jonny Fines ooster and Miranda Hart Miss Hannigan in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre  Photo credit Paul Coltas

Pictured: Djalenga Scott (Lily), Jonny Fines (Rooster) and Miranda Hart (Miss Hannigan). (Photo credit: Paul Coltas).

It’s difficult to choose a favourite musical number as every familiar song took me straight back to my childhood. Hart’s excellent performance of Little Girls whilst she drinks her way through her gin cabinet is at the top of my list, as is Easy Street performed by Hart, Fines and Scott. But you can’t beat the big cast number of I Don’t Need Anything But You. Even the addition of some lesser-known songs such as NYC and Hooverville aren’t unwelcome.

The scenery is effortlessly effective, with giant puzzle pieces stuck to the stage and movable sets. The costumes are very reminiscent of the film; every detail such as the orphan’s scrappy clothes and Miss Hannigan’s dirty silk gown have been created to match it down to a tee.

Annie delivers a dose of positivity that many will find a real tonic.

Annie is running at the Piccadilly Theatre in London until 6th January with group rates available at www.anniewestend.com.

(Lead image: Miranda Hart Miss Hannigan with the orphans in Annie - credit: Paul Coltas).