Brilliant comedian and actor Miranda Hart stands on the cusp of her West End debut, with a starring role as the hilariously spiteful Miss Hannigan in the family musical Annie just around the corner. Fortunately for us, Miranda took some time out of rehearsals – and her cruel character! – to chat to us about the show.
How does it feel to make your West End debut?
I am glad you didn’t say ‘describe it in one word’ or anything like that because there are SO many feelings around it. It’s dreamy, exhilarating, terrifying, thrilling, intimidating, weird, wonderful, bonkers and brilliant!
How are rehearsals going?
They can also be encapsulated by most of the feelings above. Each day is more freeing and fun as I get used to the process and the people, who are all genuinely lovely (thank God!), and feel more confident in the role, trying to make it my own. It’s hard sometimes to take on an iconic role as you want to do something slightly different with it.
We’re always told to avoid working with children and animals and you’re doing both! How is that going?
I love animals. I feel safe with them around and Amber who is playing Sandy is gorgeous. And to my mind if an animal barks, farts or wees at the wrong time it will always be funny. Less so with children! But the children are all total little stars and very professional and instinctive.
Were you a fan of Annie before you took the role?
Absolutely. It was one of the first musicals I ever saw. It has that wonderful mix of a story based in a dark, dramatic setting and situation but with vaudeville, comedy and some cartoon heightened musical theatre moments. It’s got it all.
Miranda Hart as Miss Hannigan in Annie (Photo: Matt Crockett)
What drew you to the role of Miss Hannigan?
I always had this silly dream of being in musical theatre. But I never thought it would be possible, and then I wondered if Miss Hannigan, as more of the acting role rather than all-singing, all-dancing role, might be possible. And here the opportunity has arisen. Not only does it mean I get to be in a musical, but I have always loved Miss Hannigan. She is grotesque and dark but very funny and vulnerable underneath it all too.
Is your performance inspired by anyone?
As I say I am trying to make it unique, although that’s hard because she is who she is, and she is iconic; but it would be easy to watch re-runs of Carol Burnett’s take of her in the 1982 film and want to a copy of that, so brilliant did I think that performance was. I love Carol Burnett, a pioneer for women in comedy, so I have banned myself from watching her!
What would you like audiences to take away from the production?
I would love audiences to have the feeling I get when I go to a musical and have had two hours of wonderful heightened escapism from life and come out feeling uplifted and singing and dancing their way home, reliving their favourite moments. I think with Nikolai Foster’s direction and Nick Winston’s choreography that’s very likely to be the case.
Interview conducted by Rachel Jessop
Annie begins previews at the Piccadilly Theatre on 23 May 2017. You can find more information and tickets here.