Annie must be a sure-fire thing for amateur societies. As in the story, the children do all the work! They perform most of the big numbers and, significantly, by dint of having two casts, they sell most of the tickets to doting parents and other relatives. This certainly seemed to be the case for Petts Wood Operatic Society’s production at The Stag theatre in Sevenoaks, which was pretty-well sold out for most of its short run.
With a child in the lead role you always worry, especially in an amateur production, that they’re going to be up to it. In this case Olivia Samuels most certainly was. She seemed right at home from the first note and, as a result, so did the audience. She delivered a convincing American accent (although it did fade back to something more local by the end of the evening!), and did a stunning job on the big numbers. Notably she delivered a heartfelt ‘Tomorrow’ whilst at the same time wrangling ‘Sandy’ and keeping him under control (a scene-stealing turn by Otis).
There was solid support from the adult cast, with the redoubtable Elizabeth O’Donnell coming into her own as Miss Hannigan. Playing to the slightly more mature age of the cast there was an inspired comedy moment from director James Mullin who cast the Boylan sisters (Susan Mann, Christine Mabbott and Caroline Bunker) as three doddery old-time musical stars who still think they’ve got it, although they’re obviously no longer sure what ‘it’ is! Ben Southworth wisely eschewed the traditional bald pate of Oliver Warbucks and brought huge warmth and tenderness to the part, especially in his scenes with Annie. And Josef Paris and Vicky Kenway were hilarious as Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis.
Overall a smooth production with spare but efficient staging and quick scene changes keeping things moving nicely and leaving you wanting more.