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‘Annie’ – Meera Syal revels in ‘baddie’ role and says dancing did not come naturally…

‘Annie’ – Meera Syal revels in ‘baddie’ role and says dancing did not come naturally…

Star is a big hit as the latest incarnation of Miss Hannigan in classic seasonal drama…

By Suman Bhuchar

ACTRESS and comedian Meera Syal revealed she has long wanted to perform in a musical and said there are hidden depths to her stage character.

She has just taken over the role of ‘Miss Hannigan’ in the musical, ‘Annie’ and she spoke to just after the official opening on November 30.

“I have wanted to do a musical for ages”, she revealed. “This came at the right time. It’s such a great role, you can really get your teeth into it.”

Of course they say, never work with children or animals and this show features both, but Syal is full of admiration for them.

Miss Hannigan (Meera Syal) loses her grip

“They’re amazing! I mean their professionalism is outstanding; they are absolutely word perfect, set perfect all the time. I had to meet the dog beforehand though – you have to give her treats, apparently she sometimes barks at Miss Hannigan as she sees her being horrible to the girls.

Miss Hannigan is a villainous character who runs the orphanage where the golden rules are ‘Sit up, shut up and sew up!’

She makes the children clean and sew, and enjoys tormenting them by feeding them ‘cold mush’ for breakfast. And she’s partial to the gin and likes to try and seduce any man she encounters.

Syal plays her as a woman who is well past her prime, has had many knocks and is landed in a dead end job, but needs to survive during the Great Depression of America. asked her if she faced any challenges playing a negative role.

“I love it, I love it,” she enthused, joking that there were, “no challenges, that’s what I am like – that’s me in the morning.”

Daddy Warbucks (Alex Bourne), Annie (Ruby Stokes), pooch Amber and Miss Hannigan (Meera Syal)

It’s obvious however that the role has its demands; it’s a big American musical and has Syal supporting a New York accent, and she also has to sing and dance.

“I am not really a dancer,” she confessed, “the dance team have been amazing with me, they have worked really hard, I am now beginning to enjoy it”.

She has always loved singing and has a fine singing voice and at the end of her solo number ‘Little Girls’ can raise her voice really high. Her song is modelled more on the Carol Burnett rendition – the actress appeared in the 1982 musical film, ‘Annie’ directed by John Huston.

“I think she’s the perfect Hannigan. I just loved the fact, she got all the layers of her, the disappointment and the pain, because she’s not a caricature. She’s a woman of a certain age who’s on her own and struggling, I was really attracted to that – the hurt and the pain of her.”

This production directed by Nikolai Foster opened in May this year with Miranda Hart as Miss Hannigan and Craig Revel Horwood (best known as a judge on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’) taking over last month.

Syal has seen both of them play the role before she joined the company, and the only advice she got was Horwood telling her “to just have a ball, ‘you’ve just got to enjoy it because it’s joyous’”.

It’s a family friendly show that it will definitely appeal to Asian audiences trying to decide what to do over the holiday season. For a start there are Sunday performances and as Syal told

“It’s like a Bollywood film, it’s almost like the best family story, isn’t it? You know, there is an orphan looking for her parents, a baddie, a goodie, a fairy tale, great fun, it’s a perfect family show.”

She said all her family including her in-laws will be watching the show on Saturday evening (December 2).

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Booking until February 18 – Piccadilly Theatre, 16 Denman Street, Soho, London W1D 7DY
Performances:Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7.30pm, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm
Prices: Tickets from £20 which include a restoration levy of £1.75. No booking or transaction fees through official sales outlets, Children Go Free (Children must be accompanied by a full paying adult and be 16 years or under at the time of the performance. One free ticket per full paying adult, valid on Band A seats only. Monday to Friday performances, excluding peak weeks and subject to availability)
Box Office:0844 871 7630


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture