ACTRESS Meera Syal has said a much-loved song from her latest West End venture is relevant to the “sorry state” of the world today.
Syal, who took over the iconic role of Miss Hannigan from Craig Revel Horwood in the hit musical Annie on Monday (27), said the song The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow is “right for the times”.
The West End show takes place in a New York orphanage ran by the cruel, alcoholic Miss Hannigan during the depression in 1930s America, and Syal thinks the story is more relatable than ever.
She told Eastern Eye: “This has been a crap year. The world is in a sorry state. We’ve had a lot to deal with in the country, and it is a song that says even when you think you’re at the darkest point, you have to believe it will get better.
“That’s a good message to hear – there is something about that song that really touches people.”
The self-proclaimed musical fan, who lists her favourite shows as Guys and Dolls, Cabaret and West Side Story, said she had been wanting to work on a West End musical for years, so is finally able to cross it “off [her] bucket list”.
“I have been offered [musical roles] in the past, but I wanted to wait for the right time,” she said.
Syal explained that Annie was a “classic” story she was familiar with as a child, reminiscing that she particularly loved American comedian Carol Burnett’s “brilliant” take of Miss Hannigan in the original 1982 feature film.
“Miss Hannigan is the baddie and I know she is quite cruel to the kids, but I do actually like her,” Syal said. “She is just like a load of other people were at that time. It was dog eat dog because if you weren’t ruthless, you would go under and starve.”
Syal confessed that the biggest challenge was perfecting her character’s dance routines.
“Everyone has been very patient with me, but because most of the time Miss Hannigan is sloshed, I don’t have to get the steps exactly right,” she joked.
Talking about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry since the revelations of producer Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour, Syal claimed these sorts of activities have been going on for years and acknowledged the “silent conspiracy” around it.
She said: “Often, the people who are at the end of the abuse are in a very powerless position and are being taken advantage of by people who have the power to ruin their careers. I hope the conversation stays open.”
The writer, known for her comedic roles in Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, isn’t the only member of her family involved in the entertainment industry.
This year, her daughter Milli Bhatia directed the critically acclaimed Hijabi Monologues, a theatre project focusing on stories of hijab-wearing women.
Syal described the “empowering” show as an opportunity for women “who are so often misrepresented” to have their voices heard. “I was so proud of [Milli], but then I’m an Asian mum,” Syal laughed. “We are always proud of our kids, whatever they do.”
Annie is running at London’s Piccadilly Theatre until February 2018