Annie review: The sun comes out as we drink our tears

A lavish, pitch-perfect production with a patina of pathos

Tomorrow (and until August 20th): ‘Annie’ at  Cork Opera House. Photograph:  Clare Keogh

Tomorrow (and until August 20th): ‘Annie’ at Cork Opera House. Photograph: Clare Keogh

 


★★★★★

It’s impossible to detect where any expense has been spared in this Cork Opera House production of Annie. Director Ronan Phelan establishes a crisp pace while musical director John O’Brien achieves a sound both fresh and sensitive from his talented orchestra. Philip Connaughton’s choreography is danced with the same slick and sometimes innovative fusion marking the sets by Maree Kearns and lighting by Zia Bergin-Holly. And Joan Hickson’s costumes enhance the narrative flow of the story while the chorus provides a sturdy vocal undercoat to this painting of a fragile fairytale.

It’s Depression-era New York where orphan Annie and her mates unite to survive the alcoholic despotism of their warder, Miss Hannigan, played by a slightly overheated Hilda Fay. Along comes a billionaire shopping for an orphan child as a Christmas good deed. The chosen one is Annie, who goes to Washington, meets president Roosevelt and her childlike optimism expressed in song inspires The New Deal.

If you’ll buy that you’ll buy anything, but 1976 America needed it and bought it because so much of the singing, dancing, acting and all-round charm comes from the children. This is not to belittle the adult cast, toned and tuned to the finest pitch in the knowledge that only meticulous performances can balance insouciance against social and political commentary. It’s not all easy street.

From the first poignant strains of Maybe sung on opening night by Faye Herlihy’s sure-voiced Annie, the auditorium’s heart begins to melt and by Tomorrow we’re drinking our tears, with Liv Gregorio as Molly keeping a gleam of pathos beneath the polished vitality.

Runs until August 20th