We go behind the scenes of the classic Broadway musical Annie before it hits the stage at Dubai’s Madinat Theatre.
It’s the family-loved tale of a little, red-haired orphan Annie, who with her dog Sandy is placed in the home of a wealthy businessman, Oliver Warbucks, for a week. During that time she impresses the mansion’s staff and wins over the stern yet ultimately loving ‘Daddy Warbucks.’
The classic musical, which is based on Harold Gray’s comic strip Little Orphan Annie, is set in the depression hit 1930s New York City. The story takes audiences on a heartfelt journey through the boisterous 11-year-old’s world; from escaping the clutches of the scheming and irresponsible Miss Hannigan, the orphanage manager, and into the arms of the famous billionaire Warbucks.
Annie producer, Lucy Magee of Popular Productions, says that the story is one that many people will have grown up with and loved. ‘It’s essentially a story about needing a family and love and friendship – it was a really difficult time, with the depression era in New York. It was a struggle for everyone.
‘It’s really about Annie looking for her parents, and the journey that she goes on. It ends up that her parents aren’t around anymore, and that they’ve died, but she manages to find a home and love and tranquillity with somebody else.’
Throughout the musical, Annie makes plenty of friends, including Warbucks’ faithful secretary, Grace Farrell, who loves her from the moment they meet, and even The President of the United States.
‘It’s been brilliantly designed in every aspect, from the set to the costumes and the lighting and even the sound. Put together, they make for a real trip down memory lane,’ explains Magee.
‘It’s theatrical, it’s beautiful, it’s comical – it goes through so many places in terms of the set. We go from the White House to New York’s streets, to Warbucks’ lavish mansion, to an orphanage.’
The acclaimed classic musical will run at the Madinat Theatre from April 2 to 17. Past shows in Dubai from Popular Productions include smash hit musicals The Wizard of Oz, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Oliver! and the award winning, The Sound of Music.
Annie won the prestigious Tony award for Best Musical in 1977 when the production first opened on Broadway. Since then various film adaptations have been made, with the latest 2014 version presented as a modern adaptation of the original film release (1982) and starring Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx.
‘There’s something for everyone in there – I think that the characters of Miss Hannigan and Rooster and Lily are really there for the comedy elements; particularly for the parents,’ says Magee.
The title role of Annie will be shared by local stars Jordan Watton and Nairne Hannah.
‘It’s such a mammoth role, Annie practically doesn’t leave the stage. For a girl of 11 or 14 years old to do nineteen shows on her own would be too much. You wouldn’t do that in the West End; you’d share the roles,’ says Magee.
The cast is made up of a mix of professional actors from the UK and London’s West End, along with a local ensemble of UAE performers.
‘We’re lucky enough to find two girls who we know can deliver the goods for each of their performances. Plus, they have to control a dog on stage so they’ve got their work cut out,’ explains Magee.
Audiences can look forward to renditions of all the classic songs from the musical including ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Easy Street’, ‘Little Girls’ and ‘Hard Knock Life’.
‘The songs and the comedy make a really good musical with something for everyone. We’ve never had anyone come to see the show and not enjoy it thoroughly. Everyone walks out with big smiles on their faces, which is what we want,’ says Magee.
The show promises to entertain both young and old audience members, taking you on a classic journey as Annie chases her dreams of having a family. Maybe take yours.
Dhs200-250. Thursday April 2-17. The Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah www.madinattheatre.com