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Review Roundup: ANNIE Returns to the West End - All the Reviews!

Last night, Nikolai Foster's revival of Annie opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End. The production stars Miranda Hart as Miss Hannigan, Alex Bourne as Daddy Warbucks, Holly Dale Spencer as Grace Farrell, Jonny Fines as Rooster and Djalenga Scott as Lily.

The title role of Annie is shared by Madeleine Haynes, 13-years old from Hadley Wood, Barnet, Lola Moxom, 12-years old from Rochester, Kent and Ruby Stokes, 12-years old from Hampshire. They're joined by three teams of young performers who will play the girls in Miss Hannigan's orphanage. Amber, a four-year-old Labradoodle, plays Annie's dog Sandy.

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan's orphanage. Her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Meanwhile, spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie's search for her true family.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: There are other problems. The quality of the sound is patchy, and the tone of some of the performances is shrill...Still, there's plenty of verve from the younger members of the cast, with a total of twenty-one actors rotating in the seven youthful roles. Last night the sparky yet soulful Ruby Stokes played Annie, with Nicole Subebe the most cheekily energetic of her fellow orphans. Right now their infectious vitality feels essential, as does the spirit of the show's most famous lyric - the inspiringly hopeful 'Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow'.

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: It's not a bad moment for this revival of Annie to open. Amidst gloom, uncertainty and random acts of violence, what the world needs is a feel-good musical featuring a plucky orphan, a shaggy dog - and a glistening message of cast-iron hope and optimism. This version, the first in London since 1998, also features Miranda Hart making her West End debut, but it is doing no discredit to the popular TV comedian to say that she is just one ingredient of many that make the production such a success.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: There's no denying that Miranda Hart's above-the-title billing as the star of Annie is unashamed stunt casting. She is a TV star with an existing fanbase, but no prior stage musical experience, and is greeted with a roar of warmth from the audience the moment she appears. But she proceeds to earn it. Never mind that she doesn't so much belt her songs as bellow them, Hart brings an eccentric air of baffled but winning charm to the role of Miss Hannigan, the comic villain who runs an all-girls orphanage in Depression-era New York.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: But Hart is this revival's selling point and I feel decidedly ambivalent about her performance. She is suitably authoritarian as the whistle-blowing, gin-swilling Miss Hannigan; she sadistically pummels an orphan's teddy bear and highlights the character's sexual repression whenever a man is rash enough to enter her domain. She can also carry a song, as she shows in her musical diatribe against Little Girls. But, while I admirEd Hart's professionalism, I never quite felt, as I did with Sheila Hancock's exuberant performance in the original West End production, that this Miss Hannigan possessed the instinctive villainy of Mrs Squeers from Dickens's Dotheboys Hall. Hart, I suspect, has too much heart.

Dominic Maxwell, The Times: Blind optimism is no cure-all for life's nasty surprises, but now more than ever we could do with a dose to help to get us through the day. And so while its chief selling point - the West End debut of Miranda Hart - is actually one of the less impressive elements of this Annie (she has comic charisma, while not looking entirely convinced by herself as the nasty orphanage manager Miss Hannigan), Nikolai Foster's revival is otherwise just what the doctor ordered.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: This is just what London needs right now. Young girls belting out "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow!" at the tops of their voices, full of life, full of hope, fists clenched, boots stamping in defiance. That, plus the spectacle of Miranda Hart, queen of the feelgood British sitcom, making her West End (and musical) debut in a role outside her plummy-pleasant comfort-zone - horrible NYC orphanage manageress Miss Hannigan. OK, so she's no Imelda Staunton in waiting, but singing and hoofing (after a fun fashion) she's a triumph.

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