For many years, the community of Loddon and Chedgrave, have enjoyed the Loddon Players Pantomimes.
Little did a group of like-minded friends know that a conversation in a village pub would lead to an amazing pulling together of so many different parts of a community to create Loddon Players first ever musical.
The planning began back in March 2019 when local dance school owner Vicky Codling, pub landlord Simon Peck and stalwart Loddon Players member Steve Burton decided that the sun really could come out tomorrow for this community.
Sponsorship was soon in place for a West End style set to be supplied by Scenic Projects. Through a connection with Paul Clarke Deputy head at Langley School the use of their facilities was agreed with the head teacher and “Annie” the dream began.
Adverts were placed around the local villages and local schools were contacted in the search of children to populate Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.
Over 70 children auditioned and all of those of an appropriate age, able to commit were adopted.
With excitement growing at the anticipation of this ever expanding project an adult cast was soon in place with people joining the group from all areas of the local community and beyond. A cast of 67 with an age range of 7 to 77 was now in place.
Next was to enrol an orchestra, this was done with the help and support of Rob White and Rebecca George-Broom who formed an orchestra of teachers and students from the school at Langley.
Rehearsals began in earnest with cast members tasked with learning lines, making costumes and getting up at 8am on a Saturday morning. From this point it was apparent that the production team had created something so much more than a musical.
Steve Burton the producer on reflecting on the production said “I am proud to have put my name to such a fantastic community project, I truly believe we have created some wonderful memories for all those involved”
Vicky Codling of Funky Feet School of Dance and Performing Arts the shows Director/Choreographer said “Working to developing children in the performing arts has always been a passion of mine. When I was younger I was fortunate enough to have people help me and give me opportunities like this. Annie has given me the chance to enrich children and adults lives, each of them has made their own journey and I feel privileged to have had a part in that”
Simon Peck Landlord of the White Horse in Chedgrave, Director and ‘Daddy Warbucks’ said “ I developed my love of theatre at a very young age. Bringing Annie to life for me has enabled me to perform on stage with my children, realising a life time goal. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you dream a little. Just like Annie in the musical we all have the opportunity to write our own futures if we trust in those who believe in us”
Four performances took place over the weekend of the 1st November 2019, with every performance receiving a standing ovation.
Our National Operatic and Dramatic Association review is below.
Review – NODA
A small village society joins the Premier League… The Loddon Players, have produced some really entertaining pantos over the years, and occasional plays, to grace the small stage of the local church hall!… But here we had a whole new ambition, as a small enthusiastic dedicated group of stalwart members, driven by a long standing dream, mostly from long time choreographer Vicky Codling, best known for her ‘Funky Feet’ Dance School seen in most recent pantos and supported by her partners in crime Simon Peck and Steve Burton.
The daring trio with the support of the Loddon Players Committee, and with considerable belief, embarked on a voyage which culminated in something which I think exceeded even their own expectations!
There was just the small problem of a tiny village hall not really capable of hosting such a ‘big’ show, and believe me this was a BIG show…
With the vision taking shape, the cooperation of Langley School was negotiated and indeed their music department provided not just the venue but also a large part of the well balanced and supportive orchestra, plus a willing head of music to act as MD…
The dream became reality and for four sell out performances, ‘Annie’ hit the stage with style encouraging standing ovations from audiences at each one!
Allowing for some double up casting there were over sixty named performers who clearly gave their all and were well drilled from the outset, even the stray dog Sandy (Misty) showed impeccable manners and timing!
The joy was to see so many youngsters able to be part of something they will remember for the rest of their lives and each and every one were totally committed to their roles however large or small with great singing.
You just knew that from the opening scene in the orphanage bedroom that these ‘kids’ were going to be outstanding, and this was confirmed as they gave a joyous rendition of the classic ‘Hard Knock life’.
Of course the whole piece depends on one particular orphan…and here we had Annie (Maddy Hamilton), who oozed confidence and stage presence together with terrific vocal prowess which showed throughout as she ‘stole’ each scene in which she was involved.
Her every expression was spot on, as were her solo songs, ‘Maybe’ and ‘Tomorrow’. She showed a depth of talent which marks her out as ‘one to watch’ for the future.
Other leads were equally convincing with a nicely balanced performance from Oliver Warbucks (Simon Peck) showing just the right amount of pomposity and arrogance, before revealing his warmer side as Annie really reached his inner self, almost moist eye time!
He was well supported by his PA Grace Farrell (Jane Rainer) who was every inch the attentive and ever so slightly ‘in charge’ assistant, she was indeed the perfect foil for Warbucks.
Miss Hannigan (Carolyn Dover) was suitably nasty to the orphans, not over doing her inebriations, giving the orphans a target for their frustrations, but also adding a nice touch of humour to the part.
Her relatives and real villains of the piece Rooster (Paul Clark) and Lily (Sarah-Jayne Lumley) gave us a well defined cameo of villainous thoughts and dastardly plans.
A quick mention for the butler Drake (Jeff Trace) who made a couple of momentous antics to bring some light hearted amusement to his otherwise impeccable butlering (e.g. hop and skip to celebrate Annie’s would be adoption!).
There were so many cameos, from President Roosevelt (Howard Dover) and his Cabinet, to Laundry Man (Simon Haynes) even a Radio Station interlude with Bert Healy (Matthew Pike) and Star to Be (Lauren Gray) all delivered with enthusiasm, and especially those orphans who stamped their own identity on their parts and well deserving their rapturous applause at the finale.
A great show and one to be proud of for Loddon Players. Well done and welcome to the premier league!