CLOGS Musical Theatre
Neeld Hall, Chippenham, Thursday 21st March 2013.
Director: Matt Heaton, Musical Director: Peter French,
Choreographers: Lucy Ibbetson & Debi Weaver
Graeme Savage reports:
The story of little orphan Annie finding happiness in the home of Daddy Warbucks despite the best attempts of Miss. Hannigan is a real family favourite, and this impressive production from CLOGS Musical Theatre would not have disappointed the sold out audiences, and the many new audience members visiting the Neeld Hall this week.
On stage, Matt Heaton had shaped a good, if small company with some strong performances, and busy direction but never allowing the stage to become too cluttered. It is easy to forget the adult chorus in a production where the focus is so heavily on the young people, but they certainly held their own in the face of strong competition, with numbers such as Hooverville and Tomorrow (Cabinet) being very well performed, with some good vocal work under Peter Finch’s musical direction. But the show really was stolen by the orphans, who stormed through the show displaying great energy and commitment, retaining individual mannerisms and characters, where it would have been easy to become a homogenous group.
In the title role, at the this performance, Annabel Howe showed a lovely clear singing voice and made for a very sympathetic Annie, her different relationships with the other orphans and adults always believable.
Lucy Davison-Smith’s Miss Hannigan was a real monster, driving the story along, but there were times where I felt she was a little understated, and could have gone further with the outrageous drunkenness, to make her even more unlikeable to the orphans! Matt Heaton’s cartoonish set, in keeping with the story’s comic strip origins, and pacey direction could certainly have coped with this. Rich Lucey’s Rooster and Lucy Ibbetson’s Lily certainly enjoyed their more villainous roles, especially in the outrageous Easy Street and its reprises. Graham Davison-Smith was in good voice as Daddy Warbucks, and Nicola Aston as Grace helped to create a good contrast for the millionaire lifestyle portrayed in Warbucks’ mansion, both actors adding some nice emotional depth to these characters.
The choreography throughout was both challenging and energetic, suiting the rest of the production and performances.
Peter French’s small but well-controlled orchestra provided good support for the company, very rarely overpowering the voices, and was especially sympathetic to the needs of the younger performers voices without sacrificing anything in terms of quality.
The carton-style set was great fun, always reminding us that this was a story which would inevitably have a happy ending, and was complimented by some excellent period costumes, hairstyles and props, and some subtle but effective lighting.
For someone who is not a big fan of the story or show, often finding it twee and inconsequential, I have to admit I was not looking forward to this! However, all credit to the company for putting on a very slick and enjoyable evening. Credit to Matt for allowing his cast not to take themselves too seriously, which can too often allow an already saccharine story to become overly twee and mawkish, but telling the story for what it is – possibly the closest you would get to a ‘new’ interpretation of this very American show.
Thank you again for your hospitality, and best wishes to you all for your future productions.