Annie Jr. lights up the stage
Join the cast and crew as little orphan Annie struggles to find a permanent home while odds stack against her. This time she searches for her new family as the audiences at Brookhaven Little Theatre remain hopeful that she will find a home.
Brookhaven Little Theatre presents “Annie Jr.” at the Haven Theater on April 30, May 1, 2, 3 and May 7, 8, 9, 10. This adaptation of the play features mostly children in the roles of the characters. Director JoAnna Sproles said the cast offers exceptional entertainment and talent level for the age of the actors.
“We started casting early and had more than 50 children, teens and adults come out to participate,” Sproles said. “We took the best of the best for our speaking and singing parts, and they are prepared to entertain.”
Speaking/singing orphans include Anna Grace McCreary (Kate), Kana Feltus (Duffy), Kristina Catchings (Tessie), Zaniya Nunnery (Olivia), Ella Haynes Kimbrell (July), Mary Rhea Waterloo (Pepper) and Evelyn Waterloo (Molly).
The role of Annie was double cast – Graci Malone and Clara Beth White – in order to give the actresses, and their voices, an alternating break from performances. White will perform on April 30 and May 2, 7, 9, and Malone will take the stage May 1, 3, 8 and 10.
“Both of these girls are past participants in our annual Summer Drama Camp and have experience with acting and line delivery. But, their singing voice is wonderful as well,” Sproles said. “They are the total package.”
Annie Jr. tells the story of an 11-year-old orphan in New York City whom billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks eventually adopts. But, her placement in Warbuck’s home does not go as smoothly as possible, as Annie faces obstacles and deception from unscrupulous characters along the way. The story is set in the early 1930s amidst the Great Depression.
The spring musical rounds out the regular show season for the theater – before the summer Teen production of “Shrek Jr.” in June and the July production of “The Headless Horseman,” which enrolls children entering first through seventh grades. “Annie Jr.” promises to delight audiences with the familiar characters, scenes and songs of the longer version of the play, “Annie.” The mostly juvenile cast has been practicing for months and has had time to truly bond with one another.
“The play’s actors have had a great amount of time to get to know each other over the course of a few months, and they seem, genuinely, like a family,” Sproles said. “That is the kind of connection that the audience will see and feel as they watch the play.”
Sproles emphasized the audience can expect familiarity regarding the story line, characters and songs. But, she updated some of the creative decisions in order to make this production have a style of its own.
“Our Annie does not have the stereotypical short, red, curly hair. We are letting the actors integrate some of their own style in order to offer a slightly different view for the audiences to enjoy,” she said.
Some of the other performing actors are as young as 8 years old, Sproles said.
“We also had boys come to try out, and there are not really any parts for boys, so we gave the part of ‘Sandy’ the dog to one of our already veteran actors, sixth-grader Braxton King,” she said.
Other boys who tried out will become time fillers in between set changes. Dressed as newsboys, they will announce news headlines of the time period to the crowds as sets are rearranged. These actors include Connor Cagle, Bryce LeBlanc and Trace Stewart.
Many more girls tried out than there were parts for, so Sproles added additional orphan dancers to the production in the beginning of the story. These extra orphans will participate in the song and dance for “Hard Knock Life.”
These extra orphans include Livi Baker, Sydney Kay Britt, Anabel Gray, Gracie Gray, Rivers Gray, Elizabeth Hutson, Lauren Mabry, Abigail Peavey, Arly Mize, Abby Williamson, Lynsie Thompson, Ellie Lambert, Sofie Grace Orr, Cadence Laird, Corley Sandifer, Sarah Elizabeth Balkcom, Allie Rae Warren, Lily Warren, Wednesday Warren and Olivia Case.
Performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays will be at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays offer a 2 p.m. matinee. It is suggested that tickets be bought in advance by choosing a reserved seat at the Chamber of Commerce office downtown. Doors will open 45 minutes prior to each performance and any extra available seats can be purchased at that time for $10. Refreshments will be sold at intermission and souvenir t-shirts and tank tops will also be available for sale.
Nick Bridge is cast as Daddy Warbucks, and Wendi Case plays Grace, his secretary. Jessica Curtis is orphanage director, Miss Hannigan, and Hampton Sims plays her brother, Rooster. Dana Foy plays his girlfriend, Lily. Mike Said plays Warbucks’ head butler, Drake (and Hobo Mike), and Gerralyn Russell is the head housekeeper, Miss Greer. Robin Patterson and Beth Breeland play the mansion’s cook, Mrs. Pugh. Jordan McLemore plays the French maid, Cecile, in the mansion. Larry Baker plays the part of President Roosevelt. Rich Balkcom is WNBC radio announcer, Burt Healey. Matt Coleman is Mr. Bundles the laundry man. Other support actors include Daniel Clark, Cody Farris, Michael O’Rorke, Reagan Whittington, Sydney Brister, Chandra Nunnery, Regina Catchings. James Minter oversaw set design and construction along with Matt Coleman, Greg Russell, Terry Britt, Owen Junkin and Timmy Junkin. Tommy Sproles is the sound/lighting director with assistance by Doug Sicks and John Shannon. Backstage crew included Sarah Lloyd, Kellye Sicks and Jesse Freeman. Lobby managers included Amy Waldon, Greg Waldon, Hayden Waldon, Carlye Waldon and Kellie Patti. Emily Waterloo managed concessions and lobby décor.
The BRAG group – a local artist organization – will have original artwork on display and for sale through silent auction bidding. They will be presented as parts of a donated Daddy Warbuck’s private art collection. Proceeds from the sale will benefit continuing renovation efforts at the Haven Theater.
A new event will top off the Sunday matinee performances – a Meet & Greet Character Tea – will immediately follow the two Sunday shows upstairs in the Chamber of Commerce building. For an extra $10 ticket, the public can meet Annie, her orphan friends, and Sandy the Dog. Photos can be taken and refreshments will be served. Tickets to these two receptions are also available at the Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the productions and programs at Brookhaven Little Theatre, visit www.brookhavenlittletheatre.com and friend the theatre’s Facebook page.
For teenage actors, Shrek Jr. will take the stage in June with tryouts in May. Also beginning in May, younger students can begin registering for July’s Summer Drama Camp by downloading a registration form from the website and returning it in the mail. Camp forms will also be available in the lobby during “Annie Jr.” shows, at the public library, Chamber of Commerce and the Brookhaven Recreation Department.