Felixstowe: Spa’s Annie cast don’t mind the hard knock life

Orphan Annie – aka Aimee Butcher – takes time out from scrubbing floors and being bullied by Miss Hannigan to tell entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE about the show and why she hopes there’ll be a tomorrow for the Spa.

Exams, learning pages of lines, it really is a hard knock life right now for Aimee; but she’s not complaining.

“It’s great fun, I’m getting really excited. I’ve been in chorus roles before but this is my first major role and my first role with Felixstowe Musical Theatre,” says the 12-year-old St Joseph’s College pupil.

She has her nan to thank for her landing the part.

Aimee was singing Tomorrow, her favourite tune from the film, in the back of the car on the drive home from school one day.

“My nan saw a story about auditions in the paper and she was like ‘ooh, look’.”

A few weeks later she was singing and dancing in front of the show’s producers.

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“It was very nervous, me and my friends just started jumping up and down when we found out I’d got the part.”

Aimee, from Ipswich, has been performing since she was five, mainly with Woodbridge-based Company of Four.

Annie will be her first appearance at Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion; she hopes it won’t be her last.

“It [the Spa’s possible closure] is a shame. I’ve seen a lot of Felixstowe’s Musical Theatre’s productions and I’ve always loved them and it’s great for people my age to have these chances to perform.”

Director Michael Crane couldn’t agree more.

A lot of children in the area get their first taste of theatre with the group, making the Spa’s predicament even sadder.

“Losing it would be horrendous. I’d say to those deciding its fate to come see the quality [of talent] on show; I don’t think they realise what actually is down there.

“It’s so important we keep that theatre. It really is so important that it stays, it really is. I mean they got the building and as you say it’s just going to stand there anyway so let’s use it.

“What a white elephant it’s going to be all boarded up because that’s what’s going to happen; it’s just going to get vandalised, wrecked and become another eyesore.”

Michael says the theatre is an important focal point for amateur groups in the area and fears if it’s lost, the next generation of talent may be lost too.

“These children have nowhere [else] to show that talent, it’s just gone. Any career they might have had will be gone too because the Spa has closed.”

Theatre groups, amateur and professional alike, are struggling to stage shows in the current climate.

The key; says Michael, is putting on shows families know and love. As a director he’d love to take on something testing like Sweeney Todd.

At the end of the day it’s all about bums on seats. FMT did really well with The Sound of Music and that’s why they picked Annie.

If Miss Hannigan’s been working you too hard to see the classic musical, it focuses on a spunky Depression-era orphan’s mission to find her parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage.

In adventure after fun-filled adventure, she foils the owner’s evil plans, makes friends with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and finds a new family and home in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell and a lovable mutt Sandy.

Prepping the show started late.

Their albeit successful 1940s wartime revue show The Celebration put them four weeks behind; but the 60 or so strong cast, including 16 youngsters, have been putting in the hours to catch up.

Michael says audiences will love the show, particularly Aimee.

“She auditioned very well, in the call backs she went up a gear from then on in and stole the show. Once you stick the red wig on it changes her completely, but she still retains that lovely cheeky little face Annie needs.”

The team have tweaked things a tad to keep it fresh for audiences, updating a few things here and there and really pushing the scenery and dance numbers.

“Our choreographer Amanda Bond’s put a modern touch on them, she’s Amandarised them as usual,” he laughs.

“There is something for everybody in Annie. You can have a little cry, there’re some lovely humorous bits and so many punchy numbers it’s just fantastic.

“When the children do Hard Knock Life they really punch it over and the audience are going to love all that; they’ll have a good night I promise them that.”

Felixstowe Musical Theatre’s production of Annie runs at the Spa Pavilion from June 14-16.

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