Published: 06:08, 08 June 2019
| Updated: 12:24, 19 June 2019
As Annie the Musical prepares to open in the county, star Craig Revel Horwood talks about playing baddie Miss Hannigan in the show, his touring must-haves and playing Bond.
Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood may be in the minority - as he loves Miss Hannigan from the classic musical Annie. Not in the same way the orphans chant "We love you, Miss Hannigan," but in a deep, genuine way.
"I just love this character so much; I am deeply in love with her," he said. "I think she is absolutely fantastic and an extremely misunderstood woman."
And his love for her is good as Craig is her: he plays Miss Hannigan in most of the show's 2019 tour dates (Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph plays her on some dates).
"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," he said.
"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, she’s a very real character in a beautifully written show."
So how does he find playing a woman? "Obviously body language has a lot to do with it, 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."
The production comes to Kent after an extended season in the West End and following a sell-out UK and Ireland tour.
Annie is set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, when brave orphan Annie has 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. But spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas...
The show has an award-winning score, with songs including It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street and, of course, Tomorrow.
It's a treat for Craig, who says he "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 10 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."
So does he have any roles he'd like to take on in 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."
Though happiest at home and cooking, of touring, he has this to say: "I enjoy the difference in the theatres, the public and their relationships with the stage which always change. You find audiences differ around the country and that’s what is so great about live theatre."
So does he have any ‘must-have’ items to take with him? "Eyelashes and eyelash glue," is the emphatic response.
* Craig performs as Miss Hannigan in the show at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford from Monday, June 17 to Saturday, June 22. Book at orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.
The show is also at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury from Monday, October 14 to Saturday, October 19. Book at marlowetheatre.com or call 01227 787787.