A little bit of festive magic descended on Oxford city centre this week as the New Theatre held the launch of their Christmas musical, Annie.
Jodie Prenger, who takes over the role of the tyrannical Miss Hannigan for the Oxford production, was joined by the cast’s orphans and one of the Annies, Madeline Hayes, as well as producers Michael Harrison and David Ian.
Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.
Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search.
Jodie, who was last in Oxford this summer for Calamity Jane and returns to the New Theatre in April for Tell Me On A Sunday, said she was thrilled to be back in the city again.
“I can’t get enough of it. One, the food’s amazing, two the audiences are… wow – if they can be anything like they were for Calamity Jane I’ll be happy, and three – I’m going to master the punting.
“So if you see a very estranged-looking Miss Hannigan screaming on the river just leave me to it.
“The role of Miss Hannigan appealed to me because she is a bucket list character in world of musical theatre. It’s one of those gutsy, funny roles.
“She is a great character and is a lot of fun. I can’t wait to play a baddie. I’ve got so much pent up anger that I think I’m just going to let it go.
“This is a character that people bite at the bit to play. She’s so mean, but there is a little bit of warmth. The whole show in general is astonishing.
“Annie is ultimately a happy story, which is what you need at Christmas. If you don’t get to see it you’d better have a good reason for not coming.”
Madeline Hayes, 12, who is one of two girls playing Annie on the tour, said: “I like going to different places and getting to show different emotions to people and making them smile. I really like playing Annie, it’s a lot of fun.”
The theatre is having a relaxed performance of the ever popular show on December 30 at 2pm.
Aimed at adults and children on the autistic spectrum, and others who feel pressured in the usual theatre atmosphere, the performance will see the lights in the auditorium not being fully dimmed, doors remaining open to allow people to come and go and parts of the show adapted to suit their needs.
Dean Stewart, general manager at the New Theatre, said: “This is our first relaxed performance and Annie is the perfect show to do it with.
“It is hugely important for us to be able to do something like this as we do not want to see anyone excluded.”
Annie runs at the New Theatre, Oxford from December 15 – January 3.