Over three nights Arnewood School’s spectacular production of Annie played to a packed house of happy theatre goers. There was much to impress given the scale of this year’s production and the increasing number of players, stage crew and orchestra who threw themselves wholehearted into the project.
Lois Robinson deserves credit for her energy and stamina. Her characterisation in the lead role warmly admired as Annie. With barely a scene to catch her breath off-stage, Robinson was seemingly constantly in the spotlight. This young actor looked comfortably at ease on the stage despite pushing herself hard – a professional in the making. Annie The Musical needs a reliable star and Robinson was more than a match for the demands and responsibly; she truly excelled.
It takes awareness and generosity in any production so rich in talent, for no single actor to steal the stage from a peer. Elizabeth Grylls, playing Miss Hannigan, looked concerningly comfortable with a half empty bottle of wine, singing drunkenly at the top of her voice. She complemented equally spirited performances from Noah Woodcraft’s bad guy Rooster who was haplessly supported by partner in crime, Lily St. Regis (“Named after the hotel!”) played by Jess Embleton with a subtle and nonchalantly comedic tone.
Ed Shinn’s interpretation of the orphan championing Warbucks utilised Shinn’s talent as both actor and singer. His polished vocals offered gravitas, befitting his strong characterisation of the vulnerable and occasionally irascible philanthropist. This seemed the perfect foil to the dutiful and efficient secretary Grace Farrell played elegantly and with panache by Mollie Gazzard.
Seasoned performers Andrew Ramplin, as President Roosevelt, Toby Sabin as butler Drake, and Josh Brindley as the tap-dancing radio host Burt Healey, add value to every show in which they are cast. It is always pleasing to see versatility deployed with such dramatic impact. Among the many highlights of this show, Edyth Shinn (Mrs Pugh), Cassie Kendall (Star to Be), and Amy Payne (Cecile), doubled as the harmonising and glittering Boylan Sisters. Their performances as flamboyant and shining as their costumes under the stage lights deftly controlled by lighting engineer Lily Annear.
Mrs Watson (Director and Producer), Mr Elkington (Musical Director), Mr Byles (singing coach) and Miss Briscoe (choreographer), need not worry that they will be running out of talent as older actors and musicians move on from the sixth form. Behind the veterans are a new wave of up-and-coming stars. Faith James-Morse (Molly), Katie Gazzard (Duffy), Imogen Bowerbank (Pepper), Isobelle Gilbert (July), Annie Adams (Katie) and Erin Arnold (Tessie) delighted the audience with their polished dance routines and chorus.
A cabaret of performers, too many to mention individually, brought Dr Evan’s professional stage design to life as orphans, Hooverites, Warbuck’s Staff, and Roosevelt’s Cabinet. The orchestra, featuring Jon Workman (drums), Charlotte Hook (tenor sax), Lori Gouldstone (flute), Lewis Lyons (guitar) and Cameron Gilbert (keyboard) exemplified the growing musical ability found across all year-groups. To this end, current and former staff, Mrs Galton (violin), Mrs Glaze (violin), and Mr Short (woodwind) are to be applauded.
Sound was engineered by the unflappable Millie-Anna Vigar. Stage Mangers Kasia Stopyra, Lily Renouf, and Lillie Coster, deployed their Backstage Crew to make this complex undertaking sure-footed. Mr Stonhill (acting coach), Mrs Anderson and Miss Tristram (vocal support), Mrs Emery (photography and publicity) richly deserve a share of the credit along with many others, including staff and parents, who assisted in this production’s success. The whole ensemble grateful for the generous patronage of The Language Training Co.
While there is something ephemeral about all work played out on the stage, its impact can nevertheless be long-lasting. Amieeleigh Webster caught the moment on the closing night in her thank you remarks. To paraphrase, The Arts, including Annie, are life affirming and sometime life changing. You don’t know what you can achieve until you are given the opportunity to do so. Everyone of the performers, crew and orchestra have every right to be proud of their work.
Till next time…