Twelve years ago I attended the very first Stage Experience production at the Grimsby Auditorium – ‘Oliver’ - and I remember writing that the production would have graced any stage in the country, professional or amateur.
Since then I have been to many of these productions and have been thrilled to see how they just seem to have got better and better and – an added bonus – I have also been able to see how many local youngsters have been involved in many of the productions and how their individual performances have improved over the years.
This year’s production – ‘Annie’ – was a triumph and a tribute to the many youngsters involved – the oldest of whom is only 19 – and the professional directing team - primarily director Kei Bailey, musical director Barry Whitfield and choreographer Gil Burns - that moulded them over the week or so they had for rehearsals before their four performances.
Annie herself – the little orphan girl in a 1930s New York orphanage, and based on the cartoon strips of the time – was played superbly by Lucy Firth, who is already a seasoned performer.
Rarely off stage, Lucy nailed all her songs and especially the hit song from the show ‘Tomorrow’.
Other notable performances came from Lucy Everatt as Miss Hannigan, making her an almost loveable villain, and Luke Race (the oldest member of the cast at 19!), who made a different Daddy Warbucks, but who easily won over the audience with his wonderful voice. A strong career ahead for him I think.
A special mention, too, for all the young orphans whose set pieces were consistently entertaining.
I did think the denouement scene, when Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily St Regis are exposed, was a bit weak, and also there were issues regarding the volume of the band and the quality of the amplified sound, but this was as nothing compared to the wonderful performances from the young performers – not to mention the dog ‘Sandy’ who inexplicably, did not get a mention on the cast list!
Review by Michael Steed