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Masquerade - Annie

14th to 16th, 18th to 22nd January, 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Georgia does Newbury proud

Masquerade Musical Theatre: Annie, at The Hexagon, on Friday, January 14 to Sunday, January 16 and Tuesday, January 18 to Saturday, January 22

Leapin' Lizards, could a mischievous 11-year-old orphan pull America out of the doldrums of The Great Depression? You bet your bottom dollar on it! And she did for 10 performances at the Hexagon in Masquerade Musical Theatre's delightful and high-quality production of Annie.

In case you have been asleep for the past 30 years, a quick recap of the plot. An orphanage. The Depression. Nasty orphanage matron. Redhead child hopes parents will return. Very, very rich man takes redhead home for the holidays. Nasty orphanage matron and nastier brother plot to thwart adoption and make some cash. The sun will come out tomorrow. And it did.

On the night I attended I saw the pink team of children. The girls who portrayed the orphans were superb and I especially enjoyed their lively singing and dancing in It's a Hard-Knock Life and You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.

Also in the pink team, Georgia Oldman flew the flag for Newbury in the title role. Confident and with a powerful voice and good presence, she was first-class. Praise too, for the other solo orphans, all were terrific.

Penny Matthews was brilliant in all respects as the mean-spirited, short suffering, boozing Miss Hannigan. Her battle cry, the song Little Girls, was a triumph.

Ben Lawson as Warbucks was perhaps too young, but carried the part well and sang excellently.

Sophie Juge made quite an impression as Grace, Warbuck's personal assistant. With a great voice, she moved with marvellous grace and carried herself with a certain period flair that added class.

Rooster (Martin Brown) and the object of his affection, Lily St Regis (Sam Rodgers) gave excellent value and the Easy Street number with Miss Hannigan was a showstopper. There were many other noteable cameo performances (from Apple Seller to President Roosevelt!).

Director and choreographer Beryl Cooper showed flair and vision and used her large cast well. With a well-drilled chorus and effective set pieces it was always great to watch.

There were no weak spots, and the principals had powerful voices.

This brings me to my one word of caution. Radio mics are wonderful things, but occasionally the strong voices were too loud and harsh especially when mingling with unamplified voices.

With impressive sets and lighting and an immaculate orchestra under the baton of musical director Tim Cumper, this was an absolutely first-class production to warm even the hardest and coldest heart in January.