Strictly ’s meanest judge, Craig Revel Horwood, sashays into Milton Keynes Theatre next month with a perfect score of terrific reviews for his performance as the gin-sozzled, tyrannical Miss Hannigan in the smash-hit revival of the endearing Annie The Musical.
Set in 1930s New York, during The Great Depression, plucky little Annie is living a life of drudgery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.
But, while her luck is about to change Miss Hannigan hatches a plan to scupper Annie’s happiness by foiling the search for the little red-headed moppet’s true family…
Here, Craig Revel Horwood talks to Stage Review about his return as Miss Hannigan to a much loved show.
“I just love this character so much,” he said. “I am deeply in love with her. I think she is absolutely fantastic and an extremely misunderstood woman.
“It’s such a wonderful opportunity to take her from the West End out on tour, and to play her in theatres I have never performed Annie in before.
“Playing her is like an actors’ playground, she is a tyrant and a villain, and those are always the most fun characters to play.
“I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to play Miss Hannigan at first, but I thought it would be great and a real challenge for me.
“I play her for real – she’s not a pantomime dame – there’s no mucking about or breaking the fourth wall, she’s a very real character in a beautifully written show”.
Do you find playing a woman fun, or does it come with any particular challenges?
“Well the challenges are that you need to be honest and real with it. Obviously body language has a lot to do with that, also the placement of the voice, and the accent of course – which I spent six months perfecting.
“As Annie is set in 1930s New York, it’s really nice to play a part who speaks differently than almost anyone does these days. It was a really enjoyable challenge”.
Craig is no stranger to musicals. “I grew up on musicals. I did West Side Story in Australia and then went into Me and My Girl and La Cage Aux Folles. I joined the famous Lido de Paris and the Moulin Rouge and then that led into being part of West End shows.
“The last musical I appeared in, in the West End, was Crazy For You which opened in 1993. I had a really fun year that year. I then left to become a director and choreographer, and subsequently a judge on Strictly.
“My first hoorah back onto the boards was when I was asked to do panto ten years ago, and that reignited my passion for performing again really.
“When I was then asked to do Annie a few years ago I couldn’t believe it, but it’s such a talented cast, I couldn’t say no!”
It’s long been said never work with children or animals, but in Annie you do both! Are there any challenges that come with this or do they bring something extra to the show?
“We have three sets of children on Annie, so they bring something really organic to the show.
“You’ll never get the same show twice. You have to play it differently with each set of children and they are so talented and doing incredible work on the stage and are all fantastic young actors.
“They will come up with stuff and you’ve got to react to it live on stage which is a bit of a challenge!”
What was your first experience of musical theatre?
“The first show that I ever went to see was Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney back in the 1970s. I just fell in love with theatre right there and then.
“I started training when I was 14, and when I saw Cats in London around the same time, I knew that was absolutely what I wanted to do, to train for and study for”.
Do you have a role you’d love to play in the future?
“I like to create roles. I did a movie, Nativity Rocks, last year and that was great fun because I hadn’t done a movie before and it was an improvised script so you really had to create the character from scratch.
“As far as the classics go, I wouldn’t mind playing a boy at some stage. I tend to get lots of female roles which is great because I love playing women but it would be nice to play a bloke so I will aim high and say I’m aiming for the next Bond!”
Annie the Musical runs at Milton Keynes Theatre from July 1-6.
Ahead of Milton Keynes the production is appearing at NEW VICTORIA THEATRE, WOKING (June 10-15); ORCHARD THEATRE, DARTFORD (June 17-22) and LIVERPOOL EMPIRE (June 24-29).
Following Milton Keynes the UK tour continues to: BORD GÁIS ENERGY THEATRE, DUBLIN (July 9-12); BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME (July 23-Aug 11); CONGRESS THEATRE, EASTBOURNE (Aug 13-17); WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, CARDIFF (Aug 19-31); HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE, ABERDEEN (Sept 24-28); EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE (Sept 30-Oct 5); SUNDERLAND EMPIRE (Oct 7-12); MARLOWE THEATRE, CANTERBURY (Oct 14-19); THE HAWTH, CRAWLEY (Oct 22-26); GRAND OPERA HOUSE, BELFAST (Oct 29-Nov 2); REGENT THEATRE, IPSWICH (Nov 4-9); NEW WIMBLEDON THEATRE (Nov 11-16); and REGENT THEATRE, STOKE-ON-TRENT (Nov 18-23).