A standing ovation; tears in people’s eyes, beaming smiles on their faces - it’s fair to say the Annie musical was a hit on its opening night in Milton Keynes.

When I interviewed Craig Revel Horwood about his sassy take on Miss Hannigan, and the lengths he goes to for the role (two and a half hours to get ready each night), he told me he hoped the show would make people laugh and cry. They’ve definitely achieved that, in buckets. 

The performances throughout Annie are a winning formula for an all-round feel-good show, two and a half hours of pure escapism, musical theatre at its finest. 

Children cast of Annie appear on stage.

The children in Annie make the show - their timing is spot on, their characters are wonderful. 

It has been almost 50 years since Annie first opened in Broadway and yet the story and its messages resonate just as strongly today. It’s a tale of hope, optimism, overcoming hard times, just as Annie so beautifully reminds us, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow”. 

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, the sets and staging are bold with very clever changes throughout - not least when some of the orphans cross the stage with their signs for where we’re heading next. 

The pace of Annie is remarkable; the tender moments are paired wonderfully with the upbeat optimism that runs throughout.

There’s such a contrast between the hopelessness, rags and misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage and the glittering, bright fairy tale life at billionaire Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks (Alex Bourne), just as there is between the two sides of New York city that we’re taken through. 

Cast members of Annie the musical on stage.

Annie befriends the homeless and poor people of New York along with her dog Sandy. 

What’s the same throughout is the energy and charisma that ooze through every scene along with top vocals and outstanding choreography from the rather brilliant Hooverville Scene (We’d Like To Thank You, Herbert Hoover) to the Bert Healy radio show. 

The outstanding children who star in Annie

There were so many strong performances it’s hard to know where to begin. The youngest stars are a good place to start; It’s The Hard-Knock Life was a highlight; the children absolutely nailed it and that set the tone for the rest of the production. Their talent is enough to blow your knee-high socks off and the balance of childhood fun and cheekiness with empathy for their situation is spot on. 

Harlie Barthram delivered a flawless show as Annie - there were so many comments around me about her being an amazing performer, especially for her age. She’s certainly got a bright future ahead of her, as have all the children I saw. 

Craig Revel Horwood’s hilarious Miss Hannigan

“Rotten, rotten, rotten”, Craig Revel Horwood’s performance as Miss Hannigan is anything but; she’s a wonderfully wicked character who drinks her way through the days and dreams of a better life, preferably with a very rich man (or any man for that matter). Her rendition of Easy Street, along with the equally wicked Rooster (Paul French) and Lily (Billie-Kay) was brilliant. 

Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan in the UK tour of Annie.

Craig Revel Horwood portrays a wonderfully wicked Miss Hannigan. 

Some of the biggest applause of the evening went to Daddy Warbucks (Alex Bourne), who is rescued by Annie just as much as he rescues her and his adoring assistant Grace Farrell (Amelia Adams) who delivered some very strong vocal performances. I can’t not mention the lovely Sandy (Amber) - the eight year-old-old Labradoodle who headed across the stage with impeccable timing at moments throughout the show. 

You know you’ve seen a good show when you don’t want it to end, and you’re wondering where the time went. The pace of Annie is remarkable; the tender moments are paired wonderfully with the upbeat optimism that runs throughout.

The result? An uplifting and unforgettable performance which leaves you with happy tears and plenty of joy - just as Craig Revel Horwood said he wanted audiences to feel after seeing Annie

We saw Annie on Monday 7th August at Milton Keynes Theatre. The show is currently booking until November. For information and tickets go to anniemusicaltour.uk