Strictly judge

The baddie is back. Craig Revel Horwood delighted in taunting Woking panto audiences as the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella last Christmas – and now he’s returning in another  villainous role.

The Strictly judge is heading to the New Victoria Theatre to star as one of the best musical theatre baddies audiences love to hate, reprising his version of Miss Hannigan, in Annie.

PLAY IT AGAIN – Craig Revel Horwood delights in the role of headmistress Miss Hannigan in Annie

“I just love this character so much,” he enthuses. “I am deeply in love with her. I think she is absolutely fantastic and an extremely misunderstood woman.

“Playing her is like an actor’s playground – she’s a tyrant and a villain, and those are always the most fun characters to play. 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 or breaking the fourth wall, she’s a very real character in a beautifully written show.”

Following his panto success, Craig is not daunted by playing another female character either.

“Well the challenges are that you need to be honest and real with it,” he muses. “Obviously body language has a lot to do with that, 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 musical is set during the Great Depression, and brave young Annie is forced 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. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search…

Along the way, theatre-goers can expect to hear unforgettable songs like It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow. 

Craig says performing in such a well known show is a dream.

“I grew up on musicals,” he explains. “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 ten 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!”

And even though the old acting adage says you should never work with children and animals, he’s doing both in Annie.

“We have three sets of children on Annie, so they bring something really organic to the show,” says the man whose other West End theatre credits include Munkustrap in Cats, Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and Harry in Crazy for You at the Prince Edward Theatre. “You’ll never get the same show twice.

“You have to play it differently with each set of children and they are so talented and doing incredible work on the stage and are all fantastic young actors. They will come up with stuff and you’ve got to react to it live on stage which is a bit of a challenge!”

Craig Revel Horwood will star in Annie at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (10 June) until Saturday 15 June.