A lone trumpet playing the melody to Tomorrow starts the New Earswick Musical Society’s latest production of Annie.
It is not an easy musical to undertake: everyone has a New York “I-want-a-cup-of-kwoifee” accent; it is set in the 1930s’ America so the cultural references may be dated, especially to a British audience; and the lead is an 11-year old girl.
The New Earswick Musical Society refuses to buckle under that pressure. The production is confident, professional and enjoyable.
The year is 1933, the city New York and the protagonist is Annie, a precocious and mischievous girl who has lived her whole life in an orphanage, run by the drunken Miss Hannigan. Running away to find her parents, she serendipitously meets a stray dog, a real dog actually on stage, who she befriends; a kind billionaire who wishes to adopt her, Oliver Warbucks; and even President Roosevelt.
More importantly, they lead to a new life for Annie.
Any production of Annie requires a strong talent in the redheaded girl’s shoes. Kiera Leaper drives this performance with a confidence rarely seen of a girl of her years. She owns the stage; sings with power and grace and holds her own with adult actors comfortably.
That is made even more impressive considering that the cast is generally very strong, notably Martin Rowley as FDR, Jo Pears as Grace Farrell, and BBC Radio York’s Dougie Weake as Warbucks, plus a vociferous ensemble of orphan girls who sing It’s A Hard Knock Life and You’re Never Fully Dressed with gusto.
Yes, some of the accents on the opening night lost their way occasionally – a particularly British pronunciation of “Yonkers” sounded significantly out of place – but it was surprising how constant and passable the accents were.
Yes, the dog sometimes looked more interested in whatever was backstage, but it was a courageous move and really benefited the whole production. Yes, there were minor hiccups and mistakes, but the performance had an assured energy, enhanced by the wonderful scenery: shifting with ease from the orphanage to a mansion to a New York City night. The latter’s backdrop is particularly striking.
The first night is always a nervous one but New Earswick Musical Society has come out of the gates running. All credit to director and choreographer Ann McCreadie and musical director Don Pears.
One expects that the performances will improve as the nights continue.
Review by Jonathan Wilkes
New Earswick Musical Society give lead role to dog
Wednesday 20th October 2010
IT’S a dog’s life “tomorrow” for Honey after the four-legged entertainer won a lead role in New Earswick Musical Society’s latest production.
Honey will be starring alongside Kiera Leaper, 11, who will play the title role in the musical Annie, which opens at The Joseph Rowntree Theatre on November 10.
She will be the two-legged star’s best friend as Kiera sings the show’s most famous song, Tomorrow.
Honey’s dogged determination beat off strong competition from several other competitors who wanted to get their paws on the role. Carol Richardson, publicity officer for the society, said: “The auditions were great fun and each dog showed its personality, but unfortunately only one could be chosen.”
Many dogs and their owners responded to an appeal from the society through The Press for the role of Sandy, Annie’s pet. They were whittled down to a shortlist of five for the final audition.