ANNIE

DIRECTOR: Nikolai Foster

CAST: ‘Team Empire’

VENUE: Teatro at Montecasino

UNTIL: November 27

RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)

LARA DE MATOS

IT is regarded as the world’s favourite family musical, has spawned two films, innumerable stage productions across various continents and has sprouted a multitude of pop culture references over the decades.

Now, near-on a century since she of the freckles and red curls was first introduced to the world as a comic strip character in 1924, Annie continues to captivate audiences. And with good reason.

This classic tale of a young orphan who suddenly finds herself plucked from a life of certain destitution and cruelty, into one filled with all the luxuries – and love – any girl could ever dare to dream of, tugs at every proverbial heart string. But rather than squeeze the sentiment out of you (as most American-borne productions are wont to do), Annie opts for a lighter touch (albeit one where the serious socio-political undertones of the time do not go unnoticed), which has you veering between all-out laughter, damp eyes and the requisite “aaawws” at the appropriate moments.

The gala performance witnessed the Team Empire crew of kiddies take to the stage (there are three separate children’s casts), with Emma-Rose Blacher leading the pack in the title role. This incredibly talented team of youngsters displayed a level of precision and professionalism that could put even their adult, more experienced peers to shame, with Bonisiwe Nomoyi’s interpretation of Molly in particular proving to be quite the scene-stealer.

Likewise, Charon Williams-Ros’s take on the comically self-serving Miss Hannigan was perfectly on point, with Stephen Jubber as her delinquent sibling sidekick, Rooster, also offering up a memorable performance. But the true strength of this production lies in the combined efforts of the full ensemble. From the street scenes and the musical numbers, to the dance sequences and linking dialogue, each individual performer slipped into their alternating roles with ease and never once faltered in keeping to their respective characters.

Frivolous fun, with just the right dose of soulful contemplation, Annie does indeed offer up an ideal, festive season-themed, family-night out.One that will have you singing the familiar favourites like Tomorrow and It’s a Hard Knock Life long after you’ve left the theatre...