Annie group wows judges in Talent Fest

The cast of Annie with Louis Walsh. INPT41-002
The cast of Annie with Louis Walsh. INPT41-002

A musical theatre group which won Portadown’s Got Talent has wowed the judges to take second place in a UK competition which included stage schools from the West End.

The Pamela Cassells junior acting group performed a five-minute extract of Annie to an audience of 3,000 at the Talent Fest finals at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

The group of 17 children, aged from 8-12 and from Portadown and Lurgan, were up against the top talent from across the UK, with many of the other competitors in their late teens.

The head judge, Nicky Graham, paid the group the ultimate compliment when he said that Annie was very close to his heart as he had worked on the casting and recording of the original West End stage production, and felt that the local group was “just as good, if not a bit better”.

Said Pamela, “He said he could see no reason why they wouldn’t be cast in a West End show. We were on cloud nine especially as there was no age limit in the category and the competition was fierce, the highest standard I have ever seen. The kids were over the moon. It’s such a massive achievement for them to put our town on the map.”

The group had made it through to the final after winning its heat at the Europa Hotel in Belfast.

The extract consisted of the songs Maybe and It’s The Hard Knock Life and dialogue between Miss Hannigan and the orphans, with Annie played by Katie Haughian and Miss Hannigan by Dia McCrory who attends Portadown Integrated PS.

Other Portadown children who took part were Sarah Slaine, Katie Vennard, sisters Lola and Reo Morton, Olivia de la Torre. Millie Hughes and Emma McKeever.

The group performed twice on the day - initially for X Factor former judge Louis Walsh and his panel who gave “incredibly encouraging feedback” and then for a panel of three celebrity judges.

The awards were presented by Louis in the main ballroom where the Strictly Come Dancing finals are held.

Added Pamela, “We were there for the experience and the fun and the team bonding. It was such a brilliant day that those girls will always remember.

“Most of them have been with me since they were three or four and they are very focused and are just so passionate and enthusiastic about what they do.”

Pamela also praised Portadown man Aaron Brankin who competed in the solo singing category and her pupil Dairine McCaughley who took part in the solo musical theatre section, saying “both represented Northern Ireland very well indeed”.