Sheffield’s Freya is lighting up the stage in new musical ‘Annie’

As the final note of ‘Tomorrow’ fades out, Freya Yates pauses for a moment, the heat of the stage lights shining down on her, and then the audience explodes into rapturous applause.

By Nik Farah
Tuesday, 26 March, 2019, 11:22
Freya onstage in the title role of Annie, in the new UK touring production

 

“It’s magical, I can't explain how amazing it feels to be onstage like that, it’s so overwhelming.”

Freya will be in Annie the Musical until August - performing 63 shows in 16 cities

For the 11-year-old Sheffield girl, it’s far from a ‘hard knock life,’ as she takes on the title role as the red-headed orphan in the new touring production of ‘Annie.’

“I’ve seen the film lots of times, and knew I really wanted to play the part,” says Freya, who is one of three Annie’s that will take on the enormous role throughout its 2019 run.

Luckily Freya was no stranger to the stage when she landed the part back in December, after finishing her run as Summer Hathaway in School of Rock on the West End last summer.

“My agent contacted me about the Annie audition and I jumped at the chance. I had to do four auditions and call-backs before I landed the part. I was shocked, but absolutely thrilled.”

Freya Yates in School of Rock

Freya jumped straight in at the deep end with seven weeks of rehearsals, in which time she had to learn the musical’s enormous and legendary book – including all of Annie’s songs and lines.

“There was a lot to learn,” she nods.

"It was quite difficult to begin with, but got easier the more we worked. I love the story of Annie.”

Set in 1930’s New York, during The Great Depression, the musical tells the story of brave young Annie, who 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. Unfortunately for Annie, spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search.

11-year-old Tapton School pupil Freya Yates is living her dream, in her new role as Annie

The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, before the film version was produced by Columbia Pictures in 1982 - starring Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, Tim Curry, and Carol Burnett.

And while the shoes may be big ones to fill, Freya's family have been on hand to help the Tapton School pupil get to grips with her part.

“We were playing Daddy Warbucks to Freya’s Annie, and waltzing around the house with her,” laughs mum Abigail, who also has two other daughters.

“This has been Freya’s dream since she was six. Of course it was hard at first, being so young and being away from her family, but being on that stage makes it all worth it for her, and we do everything we can to support her.”

A lovely moment caught on camera: Freya greeting her mum Abigail following her opening night performance in Manchester

Freya Yates was just three years old when she caught the theatre bug. After starting singing and dancing lessons a year earlier, the Sheffield tot landed her first role in a local production of Aladdin shortly after turning four. 

Two years later, she joined a theatre group and, following a group trip to watch a professional production of Matilda, attended a theatre workshop for kids.

“I loved it - it was then and there I knew I wanted to be on the West End,” grins Freya.

It was a dream she would go on to realise earlier than most, joining the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock last January.

“It was very nerve-wracking at first, performing to such a big audience, but I’m used to it now, I’d always dreamed of being onstage in the West End,” she smiles.

Freya took to the stage as Annie for the first time at her opening night in Manchester, on February 11. Since then, she has appeared at venues in Wolverhampton and Bristol, and is in Chester this week. In total, Freya will perform 63 shows in 15 cities before her contract ends in August this year – taking to the stage alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Anita Dobson, Alex Bourne, and Richard Meeks.

Freya Yates prepares for her biggest role yet, in a touring production of Annie, in the title role as the fiery red-headed orphan

“I loved opening night,” Freya beams.

“Of course I was really nervous, but once I got on that stage and we started, the nerves just flowed out of me. Everything went really well.

“We were the final of the three teams to perform, so we were all really ready for it and geared up to get going. It was amazing. I love playing Annie.” 

Freya's mum and dad came to her first show, and the entire family came to the second show.

“ We are so unbelievably proud of her, especially because she’s so young,” Abigail says.

“She’s already had four five-star reviews which has been thrilling. We know this is only the start for Freya and we couldn’t be more proud of what we know she will achieve.”

Follow @FreyaYates on Twitter to keep up to date with Freya.