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Annie Jr

by on 22 December 2017


Showing the Grown-Ups How it’s Done

Annie Jr.

lyrics by Martin Charmin, score by Charles Strouse

Dramacube Productions at Hampton Hill Theatre until 23rd December

Review by Georgia Renwick

The story of downtrodden little orphan Annie, who is gifted with the opportunity to stay with a self-made millionaire for Christmas and finds the chance of a new, happier life, is a story we all know and love; but seeing these little stars shine in Annie Jr, a Dramacube production, is a Christmas treat we can all enjoy!

With Christmas just around the corner, there is an infectiously feel-good atmosphere at HHT as mince pies are munched and hot chocolates sipped on. You maybe have already seen some Christmas pantos this season, traditionally for the children. But tonight, it is time for the children to show the grown-ups how heart-warming Christmas theatre is done.

Over the last two and a half years, Dramacube has brought young talent (7-14 years) from across Richmond borough – and now Kingston – to the HHT stage, with a touch of creative flair and professionalism. Their Christmas production this year is no exception. The three teams of children each have two performances this week to show off all their hard-work to their families and friends, appreciation that has been hard earned by the children and Dramacube’s creative team.

The script is a cut-down version of the tony-award winning musical, but though it is cut down in length it is not lacking in spirit, in plot, or in challenges. If you have seen Annie playing in the West End this year you will recognise the songs, because everything in this Jr. version is in the ‘real’ show. The kids do not get off lightly with easier versions! And yet each and every child tackles the singing with aplomb. Of course, not every little girl can be Annie, but the production has been well balanced to allow for solo lines and moments to shine. Excellent experience for these young performers in handling nerves in the packed-out theatre, as well as the singing itself. It is singing as a unit however, where each child really gives it some gusto! Hard-Knock Life hit with the force of many knocks, even from the balcony!


annie-3E6A3851-470x705 2016

Annie Jr 2016:  Photograph courtesy of DramaCube


Music is provided in the form of a professional quality backing track, allowing for a professional sound without the headache of fitting an orchestra on the HHT stage! I have also seen productions fall-down where children struggle to adjust to live performers that inevitably sound different from a backing track, so this seems a wise choice.

The choreography in this production is especially strong under the guide of director Stephen Leslie and assistant director Mathew Bunn. The stage, filled with orphans, neither feels too crowded or too sparse, and everyone gets their moment in the limelight. Their little heads popping out from blankets and a make-shift pile of mattresses in the opening scene is an especially sweet and memorable moment. The children move very well, they know their marks, and the production overall is quite slick. Although this production does not allow for as much dancing as some of Dramacube’s previous shows, it has its moments. The production does not strive so hard to be slick that it loses its heart and soul, a quality Dramacube are garnering a reputation for.

Of course, working with children of all ages it can be challenging to manage visual perspective. It’s tough for a pint-sized police officer to convincingly arrest a Miss Hannagan a couple of heads taller than him, but it’s certainly funny, and certainly sweet!

Akshy Marayen had her work cut out with costuming, some children had as many as three changes. The change from Orphan to Sandy the Dog and then back again was especially inventive.



Annie Jr 2017:  Photograph by Bomi Cooper



Sally Somerville’s set has been well-designed with multiple spaces spliced together so that set changes are kept to an absolute faff-free minimum. There is a tense moment when Miss Hannagan stumbles and falls down the intentionally rickety looking stairs, but not to worry! It is testament to the young cast member’s good acting that we were (thankfully) more startled than we needed to be.

Annie is a sweet tale, but it also offers us an important lesson in the value of an optimistic outlook. Afterall, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”, a mantra which every child on that stage seems to have taken fully to heart, is a mantra not just for Christmas, but to carry the whole year through; children and grown-ups alike.

Georgia Renwick
December 2017

Images from Dramacube’s 2016 production of Annie Jr.


From → Musicals, Reviews

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