‘NEVER work with animals or children,’ so snarls the old adage about the secret to successful live shows. 

That cynicism might ring true of the Blue Peter blooper reel, but certainly not of the riotous stage revival of Annie. 

Rarely in my adult life have I bothered to hang around after a show to catch a glimpse of the stars, but that changed when Sandy the dog scurried past with its real-life owner, as the audience poured out of the New Theatre exit.

“It’s Sandy!” I squealed to my friend, weighing up whether or not it would be weird to run after the labradoodle and request a selfie. 

I decided it probably would be, and settled for reminiscing about the shaggy-haired stray’s performance, nailing tricks and running across the stage in perfect time as it roamed the streets of New York. 

Sandy's human cast members began the show in the bedroom of the orphanage, fidgeting in their grotty beds and arguing about who was keeping who awake. 

Admittedly I have never actually seen either of the Annie films, so I'm not sure how closely the new stage musical follows. 

I vaguely knew the plot thanks to a village carnival in my childhood, in which my friend had bagged the starring role on the Annie float: 

Annie grows up in a ramshackle orphanage run by a nasty alcoholic named Miss Hannigan, who treats the children as her cleaning and sweatshop slaves during the Great Depression.

She is saved from a life of poverty by billionaire Oliver 'Daddy' Warbucks and his assistant Grace, despite Miss Hannigan’s plan to derail her adoption with help from her con artist brother.

EastEnders legend Anita Dobson embraced Miss Hannigan’s character with comic flair, and her part in the script frequently tickled the audience.

Oxford Mail:

The shrill twang to the cast’s accents took some adjusting to, but any grumblings in my head were quickly hushed by the beginning of It’s a Hard Nut Life about 15 minutes in. 

The girls stomped around on their beds and furiously scrubbed at the floors as they belted out the familiar chorus - their feisty delivery was absolutely brilliant, so much so that I itched to jump up from my seat and join their girl gang. 

Choreography throughout the show was consistently excellent, melding street dance with ballet, ballroom and a fair bit of bouncing on the furniture. The energy of the young cast members as they wheelbarrowed and cartwheeled across the stage was infectious. 

There were also some impressive singing solos, particularly from Alex Bourne's Warbucks in the track Something Was Missing.

Tomorrow was another familiar tune, sure to be stuck in my head for weeks to come, although it became a little saccharine by the time the reprise rolled around at the end. 

The real magic was made when the girls took ownership of the stage in unison - I would have loved to have seen more of that, as they were only involved in three songs.

Regardless, they rightly earned a thunderous round of applause at the end, with enthusiastic booing as Miss Hannigan took her bow. 

Annie is touring the UK and stays at the New Theatre all week until Saturday - I challenge even the most serious of theatre-goers to sit through it without cracking a smile.