DIRECTOR: Steven Stead

CAST: Lisa Bobbert, Iain Robinson, Jessica Sole, Steven Stead, Belinda Henwood, Peter Court, Luca Tarboton and Sarah Donkin (alternating as Annie), Lyle Buxton Graeme Wicks, Rory Booth, Anthony Stonier, Georgina Mabbet, Charon Williams-Ros, Marion Loudon, Caitlin Kilburn, Katy Moore, Evashnee Pillay, Dominique Le Grange, Pluto the dog, Marianthe Panas, Wazana Ngidi Grace McIlroy, Sarah Sparks, Genevieve Matter, Cassidy Phillips, Keryn Lynne Scott, Abigail Kane, Emma Gillespie, Lindelwa Sibisi, Klara Robertson, Tehillah Milne, Katelyn Hollowell and Alaska Hilton.

VENUE: The UKZN Sneddon Theatre

UNTIL: June 15

RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)

Latoya Newman

KICKSTART’s staging of the Broadway musical Annie is bound to see a good season with so much going for it. It’s a chance to see a classic on a local stage, it’s an encouraging story at a time when South Africa faces poverty and unemployment, and the cast list is really braggable.

On the media night, Tarboton did an amazing job as Annie. Her fellow orphans Hallowell, Scott, Sibisi, McIlroy, Hilton, Matter and Panas should be equally proud of their performances. The young actors whizzed through their lines, held their accents and sang beautifully.

The adult cast is among the cream of Durban’s acting crop, so it was no surprise that their performances were wonderful. Stead (also the director) sang, danced and acted with aplomb in the role of Rooster Hanningan. Also, Robinson, whom Durban mainly celebrates as one of the foremost spoken word and hip hop artists, makes a good go of his first singing attempt in this musical.

Annie is the uplifting tale of the little orphan who – in the midst of a depression-struck New York City – manages always to look on the bright side. Her infectious sense of hope, in what many times seems a hopeless situation, spreads to everyone around her.

And it’s not just at the New York City Orphanage where Annie has a glimmer of hope. A chance to stay with billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Robinson) over Christmas sees her meet President Franklin Roosevelt.

Annie’s story of her search for a family really tugs at the heartstrings.

And her part in the broader encouragement of a down-and-out country is inspiring and one that we can relate to right here at home at a time when so many are losing jobs, homes and joining the people living below the breadline.

Drawing you deeply into this story are the amazing flying sets by Greg King which do well to not only enhance the feel of each set – from a 1930s New York City to Warbucks’s billion-dollar mansion, to a run-down orphanage and more – but also in changing scenes faster.

And we can’t forget the one who got the audience “awww-ing” with appreciation – Pluto the dog, who plays orphan Annie’s dog Sandy.

Complementing the set design are the marvellous costumes by Neil Stuart-Harris. Janine Bennewith’s choreography added flair to the show and the musical direction team of Shelley McLean, Justin Southey and Evan Roberts deserve kudos.

Definitely one to catch.

Annie ends on June 15. Book at Computicket. For block bookings of 10 or more, or sold performances, contact Ailsa Windsor on 083 250 2690 or [email protected]