Success for show like Annie all comes down to the performance of the eponymous role.
Luckily for the Crawley Operatic Society, they have a ginger-wigged gem in Ellie Rayward.
Young Ellie shines as Annie - the orphan taken under the wings of millionaire - sorry, billionaire - Oliver Warbucks (Tony Lee), as he and Grace Farrell (Lorna Heppell) help her find her real parents.
They obviously have to tackle the scheming Miss Hannigan (Heather Kemeys), Rooster (Tom Payne) and Lily St Regis (Katie Wood - capturing the spirit of Bernadette Peters admirably) along the way.
But the show shines and sparkles when Annie and ‘Daddy’ Warbucks are on stage together. Rayward’s and Lee’s chemistry is spot on and they capture the tenderness of the relationship perfectly.
Rayward’s renditions of ‘Maybe’ and ‘Tomorrow’ were pitch-perfect, while ‘Hard Knock Life’ with the rest of ‘Team Grace’ was a crowd-pleaser.
My personal favourite was I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here sung by Annie, Grace, Drake (Robert Carpenter) and Ensemble.
But the scene when you have the cabinet of the American Government singing Tomorrow was the real showstopper.
The sets, especially Warbucks’ mansion, were superb and you couldn’t help but be impressed by the size of the production.
A minor criticism would be (and I was advised by my expert companions!) was some of the costumes weren’t factually correct and it could have done without a couple of the scenes to get the running time down, but that is bbeing very picky!
The Crawley Operatic Society have unearthed a real star in Ellie Rayward and director John Harries-Rees and the rest of the company should be very proud of their take on a classic musical.
by Mark Dunford