One of our most loved musicals is set to return tomorrow and with it the Strictly judge we love to hate. ANNIE is the musical and stepping back into the shoes of Miss Hannigan is the fab-u-lous CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD.

It’s a story which has had many lives, but on stage is where it works best, and if you need any proof, just ask the thousands who saw the show on its last visit to the Wales Millennium back in August 2019 (pre-covid days). Craig was here then and was a real show-stealer, next to little orphan Annie that is.

The tour returns to the centre, opening this evening through till Saturday.

Craig and Miss Hannigan

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Her luck soon changes when she’s chosen to spend a fairytale Christmas with famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Meanwhile, spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search for her true family…

Annie the Musical was originally based on Harold Gray’s comic strip ‘Little Orphan Annie’. With unforgettable Tony® award-winning book and songs such as ‘Tomorrow’ ‘Easy Street‘ and ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’, it’s easy to see why the show is a huge success on stage, and of course the big screen.

The original movie outing (and still the best) is John Huston’s 1982 film starring Albert Finney as the billionaire Oliver Warbucks is an absolute classic.

Craig is probably best known as a judge on all 20 series of BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing. He returns to the part of Miss Hannigan having played the role to critical acclaim in this production in both the West End and on tour. His other West End Theatre credits include Munkustrap in Cats, Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Harry in Crazy for You at the Prince Edward Theatre.

With such a busy schedule we asked Craig what brought him back to the role of Miss Hannigan…..

“I just love this character so much; I am deeply in love with her. I think she is absolutely fantastic and an extremely misunderstood woman. Playing her is like an actor’s 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.”

But we’d imagine she comes with her own set of 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, how she speaks, and the accent of course – which I spent 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’s fair to say that we probably know you best as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, we do have a sneaking suspicion that you enjoy performing and dancing on the stage as opposed to judging others?

“Well, 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 over 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, and I’ve not looked back since!” 

The old saying goes that you should never work with children or animals but in Annie you do both

“We have several 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!”

We all like a bit of down time in a busy schedule, and we bet you appreciate yours too. What do you get up to when your not judging, dancing or directing…….

“I like to cook, in my own home. I like sleeping in my own bed and cooking in my own home. There’s nothing better to pass the time – whether to test and make up some new recipes or really get stuck into cooking something. I love it, I could cook for days on end.”

You do like to hand out advice to others on Strictly but have you ever been given a piece of advice, or words of wisdom yourself which have stuck with you……

“My teacher used to say, “you need to be like a tiger and fearless”, which is of course very apt for this industry. You must be prepared to fail, and as soon as you get used to that you start learning. Personally, I feel that listening to your inner voice is the most important thing, especially when making decisions in this industry. I don’t often rule with my head; I rule with my heart.”

Craig will play the role of Miss Hannigan on the Cardiff leg of the tour and also play the role in Leicester, Birmingham, Oxford, Dartford, Stoke, Llandudno, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Nottingham, Woking, Bradford, Southend, Bromley and Norwich. As previously announced, Paul O’Grady will play the role of Miss Hannigan in Newcastle, Edinburgh, Southampton, Liverpool, Dublin and Bristol.  

This production has a fabulous cast, of which there are many thanks to the rotating roles of the children. To see who else is in the show, go HERE. I’m sure no one will mind if I shared a picture of three of the stars who will have us all going ‘ahhh’ with delight – meet Darcy, Boris and Lily who share the role of Sandy.

ANNIE gets to the Wales Millennium Centre from tomorrow, the 3rd to 8th July, tickets are on sale now. For more information and tickets, go HERE.

Annie has Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin and a Book by Thomas Meehan. It is directed by Curve’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster with set and costume design by Colin Richmond, choreography by Nick Winston, lighting by Ben Cracknell and sound design by Richard Brooker.

Finally Craig – what can audiences expect when they come to see you as Miss Hannigan in Annie?

“Number one – entertainment, number two – a shock! Number three, some great singing, dancing and acting because we’ve got such a brilliantly talented cast, and of course all of the incredible songs that they know and love.”