REVIEW: Annie, Sunderland Empire

Lesley Joseph and the girls from Annie.
Lesley Joseph and the girls from Annie.
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The sun has come out in Sunderland as the latest show hits the Empire theatre.

Annie, opened at the Sunderland Empire last night and proved to be a huge Bank Holiday Monday success.

Lesley Joseph in Annie which is showing at the Sunderland Empire.

Lesley Joseph in Annie which is showing at the Sunderland Empire.

Starring Lesley Joseph as the downtrodden and drunken Miss Hannigan, the production opened to a packed house and the audience wasn't disappointed.

Although known to millions for her role of Dorien Green in the television hit, Birds of a Feather, Lesley Joseph's career boasts a huge wealth of theatrical experience, which she brought to the role of the cruel and slovenly manager of the orphanage where 11-year-old Annie and her friends live.

Joseph brings humour to the role and despite her treatment of her young charges you can't help but feel sorry for the beleaguered Miss Hannigan, who dreams of a life of luxury which has so obviously alluded her.

It may not be etiquette to mention a lady's age, but with Joseph's dancing, singing and high-kicking routines it is easy to forget that the actress recently celebrated her 70th birthday and has an acting career spanning more than four decades.

A scene from Annie which is currently showing at the Sunderland Empire.

A scene from Annie which is currently showing at the Sunderland Empire.

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, the show follows the story of brave young Annie who is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.

Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.

Spiteful Miss Hannigan, along with her petty criminal brother, Rooster, played by Jonny Fines, has other ideas and hatches a plan to derail the happiness of the young orphan.

With its award-winning book and score, this stunning new production includes the unforgettable songs It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow.

Although Joseph is great in the role of Miss Hannigan and Alex Bourne makes a good Daddy Warbucks, the stars of the show are most certainly Annie, who last night was fantastically brought to life by 12-year-old Anya Evans, and the other girls from the orphange, who all performed superbly, particularly Andie Jordan, who at the tender age of just seven-years-old, owned the stage in her role of Molly.

Not only were the youngsters singing, dancing and acting, they also doubled as stage hands regularly moving scenery on and off stage and not putting a foot wrong under the pressure.

Also, taking the limelight was two-year-old labradoodle Amber, who seemed to be loving the bright lights of fame in her role of street dog, Sandy.

Annie is a feel-good show not to be missed and is running at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, April 2