CHILDREN’S SHOWS – Edinburgh Youth Theatre perform Annie Jr


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THE Big Apple was looking bright and juicy as Edinburgh Youth Theatre (EYT) hustled its take on this 1930s musical essay about the Great Depression for early morning festival crowds.

Image: Jon Davey

And whilst it looked like a feat more fitting of circus; juggling the fragile egos of would-be wee thespians and  a show already well-loved and world-famous with the right spin for new audiences – Shauna MacDonald’s careful direction as always remained constant.

The redemptive tale of orphan Annie, who escapes the grinding poverty and economic downtrun sparked by the 1929 Wall Street Crash thanks to the philanthropy of a kindly benefactor (Mr Warbuck) keen to adopt her, is wonderfully played in the close-up and personal The Space UK venue.

Pint-sized Elsa McGregor takes the lead beautifully with an assured virtuosity and tender talent crystallised in weekly rehearsals at the EYT community venture.

The sparky 11-year-old was real not precocious, confident not pushy, vibrant not annoying and such a little inspiration to some of the less confident cast members whose voices faltered a little in the limelight.

A couple of years back she may have shared their gaucheness but not anymore – testimony to a confidence-building artistic journey afforded to all members of this incredibly feisty little company.

Image: Jon Davey

There were other stand-out performances from Mr Warbuck’s secretary, Grace, (Miya Turner) who inhabited her role and kitten-heels with a sense of style and professionalism and Lily, (Skye Gibson), whose singing voice was astonishing.

The colourful rendition of NYC brought the full punch of collaboration into play as like a 1950s musical the stage exploded with the foot-tapping pulse of American life.

Pom-poms, pop-corn, majorettes, twirling umbrellas, even an opera singer in a fur stole filled the arena with the heart and soul of Broadway.

Steering her little disciples away from the saccharine take that so often spikes blood-sugar in this genre, BAFTA winning MacDonald, performing herself in this year’s Fringe, opted for a more sophisticated approach.

Image: Jon Davey

Annie’s flame-red wig may have had a bit of a life of its own, but generally costumes were charming and considered. The storyline rarely faltered and even small children in the audience were sucking it all in – there was silence throughout the auditorium.

Watching these little green shoots push to the light at the most prestigious arts festival in the world in their own sweet time, spurring each other on was as heart-warming as the tale itself.

Roosevelt’s New Deal – which led to the rebuilding of a nation after the Depression – may seem like sad anachronism in these ‘hard knock life’days but it’s legacy is perhaps more relevant than ever for developing minds faced with an uncertain future.

If you want a lift from the hard Brexit blues remember those political rain clouds will have to part soon. The sun, according to little orphan Annie, is never that far off.