Miss Hannigan really is an appalling woman – and that’s a big part of the attraction in playing her, says Amanda Crehan as she steps into the role in the musical Annie for CAOS Musical Productions at the end of May.
“She is a real old harridan,” says Amanda, “but I do quite like her! She is a bit past it, but is still hanging on to her youth and desperate to get a man. She hates her life as manager of an orphanage. She grew up in New York. She was born on the wrong side of the tracks. She works for the public authority, and it is the best job she can get. But she absolutely hates it.
“She is appalling to the children. I think it is partly bitterness. If you watch the film, she is actually nicer. She is funnier in some ways, and she does have some redeeming features, but absolutely not in the stage musical. She is just thoroughly nasty. I think it is bitterness and anger and jealousy and the fact her life has gone a way she wouldn’t have wanted it to go. She is desperate to get out and to be comfortable and to live in luxury, but she knows that isn’t going to happen.”
So, yes, Amanda can certainly understand her.
“You have to have sympathy for the character you are playing – otherwise you would just be doing a caricature. You have to make it real. You have to have an understanding of why the character is the way she is.”
The upside is that the nastiness makes it all the more interesting, says Amanda who has had ‘years and years of playing goodie two-shoes parts’. To move into playing someone such as Miss Hannigan is one of the benefits of getting older:“Miss Hannigan gets the best tunes and she gets some really funny lines.”
Amanda has been with CAOS for six years now, with credits including Die Fledermaus, Hello Dolly, The Pirates of Penzance and The Sound of Music. Sadly, it’s looking as if Miss Hannigan will be her last bow with CAOS – unless she can squeeze in one last hurrah in the autumn.
Later this year she is emigrating to New Zealand: “My husband is a Kiwi. He emigrated to the UK about 20 years ago. He has lived in the UK for a long time, but over the years we have been over there several times. We have family over there, lots of friends over there and land over there. It’s a lifestyle choice – something not many people get the opportunity to do.”
Being married to a Kiwi makes things less complicated. Currently she is looking into transferring across her qualifications as a solicitor, to show her UK qualifications are an NZ equivalent.
“I might work as a solicitor over there. I might not. We will be mortgage-free, so I might not have to work in the way I have to here...
“I feel full of excitement. It is not a decision we have taken lightly. It is something I have thought long and hard about, but I am excited – and a bit apprehensive. I am uprooting everything here, work and friends and going to a country where I am starting again with a blank sheet of paper. But it is great. I am not thinking I know what my life will be like for the next 20 years. Now, I really don’t know!”
Annie runs from May 27-31, all evenings 7.30pm plus Saturday matinee 2.30pm. Grounds open at 5pm on the Saturday for people to come along with their picnic if they wish. The venue is Westbourne House school, Coach Road, Shopwhyke, PO20 2BH. Tickets: 07745 230778.