GORDON Frost's new production of Annie - one of music theatre's much loved tales - makes a welcome return to the Perth stage after an absence of 12 years.
Set in New York in the 1930's depression, the drama unfolds in the bleak orphanage where Annie and other orphans reside under the watchful eye of the evil Miss Hannigan (portrayed by musical theatre doyenne Nancye Hayes).
Annie, (played on opening night by Claudia Fitzgerald) with her beaming smile and mop of red hair, is the ray of sunshine in what is a bleak and drab life full of work and no play for the orphans.
She hopes her parents who promised to come and get her after leaving her on the New York City Municipal Orphanage steps 11 years earlier will show up one day and take her away from the squalor.
After a couple of failed attempts at running away, things change dramatically for her when she is chosen to spend Christmas with billionaire Oliver Warbucks (a brilliant Michael Cormick).
Her life is turned upside down as she earns Warbucks' affection who decides to adopt her. But as she yearns for her parents, Warbucks sets out to help her find them, offering a huge reward.
Hundreds turn up to claim the child but none can properly identify her until Miss Hannigan's brother Rooster (Todd McKenney) and his ditzy girlfriend Lily St.Regis (Chloe Dallimore) pose as Annie's parents.
Her fate looks sealed until they are revealed reveled as usurpers and taken away by law enforcement officers, and everyone including her friends from the orphanage celebrate Christmas.
Unlike many other modern musicals with their whiz-bang special effects designed to thrill the audience, Annie relies solely on the talents and energy of its cast to support the show.
The principals and adult ensemble cast do well, although crowd favourites McKenney as the conniving Rooster Hannigan and Bert Newton as FD Roosevelt, clearly steal the show.
The cute child cast tackles their musical numbers with freshness and vitality.
As in the storyline, the orphanage and slum settings are drab, grey, and devoid of colour, but when Annie moves into in to Oliver Warbucks' plush uptown New York home, Kenneth Foy's sets bursts into life with loads of colour and light and are a pleasure to view.
Though Annie may have been lacking a bit of sparkle at times - which may be in part due to a cast change or opening night jitters - it ultimately delivers the goods, that warm fuzzy uplifting feeling a happy ending brings to the audience as the curtain goes down.
It's a feel-good musical for all ages.
Annie is showing for a limited season. Tickets through Ticketek.
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Annie - opening night
Where: Burswood Theatre
Reviewed by: Anthony von Leonhardi