Playing the villain is nothing new for Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood.

He is notoriously stingy when it comes to awarding top scores in the long-running BBC TV show.

So perhaps it was no surprise that he was cast as Miss Hannigan in the latest production of the musical Annie, which opened last night at the New Theatre in Oxford and runs until Saturday.

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What was surprising though was the ballroom's supremo's appearance.

Instead of the usual smart jacket and tie, he appeared heavily made up in a knee-length dress, stockings and a vivid red wig.

“I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to play Miss Hannigan at first," he said earlier.

"But I thought it would be great, and a real challenge for me. I play her for real – she’s not a pantomime dame."

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While the Strictly judge proved himself as an accomplished singer and dancer, he perhaps struggled with the required American accent on a couple of occasions.

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, the musical tells the tale of the plucky young Annie, who is forced to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.

Annie's luck changes when she’s chosen to spend a fairytale Christmas with famous billionaire 'Daddy' Warbucks – though the spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil her search for her true family.

The show, featuring enduring songs It’s The Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow, arrived in George Street from the West End.

While Craig Revel Horwood gave a memorable performance as Miss Hannigan, there were star turns throughout this strong ensemble cast.

Harlie Barthram sang her heart out as Annie and to take the pressure off, she is sharing the role on the tour with Zoe Akinyosade and Poppy Cunningham.

Harlie was ably supported by a team of young orphans whose dance routines had been practised to perfection.Oxford Mail:

Her rapport with Alex Bourne, who played Daddy Warbucks, was genuinely touching and his solo numbers were outstanding.

Some of the dance routines - NYC was a highlight - were mesmerising and the New Theatre audience was truly blessed to see the West End arrive in George Street.

While Craig Revel Horwood may have stolen some of the headlines for his turn as Miss Hannigan, there were eye-catching performances throughout.

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Paul French as con artist Rooster Hannigan and Billie Kay as Lily St Regis worked well as a team and added lots of fun to the performance.

Annie wouldn't be complete without her dog Sandy and there were at least two labradors waiting in the wings.

In one heart-melting scene, Annie, after finding the dog on the streets, gets to keep him when a police officer insists she call his name to see if he will come to her.

He doesn't let her down and it was a sign that nothing was going to go wrong on a perfect night for the cast of Annie.

Andy Ffrench


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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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