Annie, Colchester Operatic Society, Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Until February 9. 01206 573948.

When you stage a hit musical like Annie be prepared for little people to steal the show.

They get all the best songs, they get all the best lines, and of course they have the cute factor - the deck is definitely stacked in their favour.

And so it’s the case with Colchester Operatic Society’s barnstorming new production.

I don’t normally role call names but in this instance the orphans were so utterly brilliant, it would seem remiss of me not to do so.

Take a massive bow Lily Dickie, Ella Ball, Esme Ball, Harriet Mold, Annabel Nottage and Matilda Davis, who share the run with Eve Lloyd, Molly Robinson, Betsy Turner, Megan Fox, Marley Preston and Lily Brotherton who will no doubt be as equally excellent every other performance.

No first night nerves for these orphans, who sang their hearts out and had the audience eating out of their hand whenever they were on stage.

Considering just how great the big people were in COS’s Annie, this is high praise indeed.

Miss Hannigan has to be a dream role for any performer but it’s a proper physical, acting and singing challenge. Fortunately Leanne Fincham was more than equal to it, serving up an hilarious Hannigan with exquisitely timed movement, delightful facial expressions and perfect interaction with the youngsters.

She was more than ably assisted by the excellent David Rutter and super sassy Joanne Davis as Rooster and Lily, Easy Street being one of the hit numbers of the night.

There were other great moments, like Tomorrow in the President’s Office, and Bert Healey’s radio show, as well as some sweet cameos such as Andrew Hodgson’s butler, Drake.

It would also be remiss of me not to single out one of COS’s jewels, Graham Bowden, who as Oliver Warbucks provided suitable gravitas but also poignancy, and a recently very welcome addition to the troupe in Rebecca Clemens, who played Grace and whose singing voice makes her definitely one to watch out for.

But it’s back to the little people, and the biggest little person of them all, Jasmine Triadi, who smashed it out of the theatrical park with her adorable, funny and wistful Annie, who brightened up the stage when ever she was on to it.

Backstage it’s another triumph for the terrific triumvirate that is director and choreographer Adam Woodhouse, musical director Neil Somerville and assistant director Laura Hicks, who have once again given us a grandstand show that’s worth going to see again and again.

As they say, you’re never fully dressed without a smile, and you’ll be wearing it from ear to ear after this cracker.