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Theatre spring musical 'Annie' opens, 'Tomorrow, tomorrow,' as in Friday
Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” deserves credit for extolling the virtues of mind over matter.
But when it comes to unmitigated, unbridled optimism, it’s Little Orphan Annie who truly wrote the book.
The heart-warming story of the little girl who wins over the worldly and streetwise of New York City with her sunny disposition and soft-spot for a little lost dog takes center stage when San Juan Community Theatre reaches back into the history books and revives its first-ever musical production, “Annie” as part of its 25th anniversary celebration.
The production, directed by Susan Williams, who played the role of Grace in the theatre’s 1989 production, features a cast of more than 30 islanders, a support crew of more than 40, a 15-piece orchestra, a costume-crew of 10, three choreographers, 10 so-called “kid wranglers” and a dog. Yes, one dog, who plays its role as Sandy to a tee.
While the scenery promises to be much different than that of the theatre’s original production, and the orchestra much larger, the story and many of the costumes will be the same as presented in 1989.
“I thought it would be really fun to go back to where we started,” Williams said.
In addition to Williams, costume designer Anita Welch and Brad Welch, who’s in charge of set construction, were also involved in the ‘89 production. Anita played the role of Lilly St. Regis and Brad helped with building the ‘89 set. And then there’s supporting actor Bert Dayton, who 25 years later will revive his “floater” role, as one of the background performers and, more importantly, singers.
“I do this because I love to sing,” said Dayton, who’s been part of more than 20 theatre musicals. “I love the process of the play and meeting all the new people.”
Based on the comic strip character Little Orphan Annie, which debuted in the New York Daily News in 1924, Annie’s story unfolds in 1933 in New York City during the Great Depression. An optimistic orphan living in a dreary orphanage ruled by the mean-spirited Miss Hannigan, masterfully portrayed by Penelope Haskew, Annie’s life takes a dramatic turn thanks to the intervention of sweet secretary Grace and the soft heart of billionaire Daddy Warbucks (Bo Turnage).
The production features a host of familiar tunes, such as “Tomorrow,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” and a captivating performance by ElseDora Arendt in the lead role of Annie. Adding to the excitement of starring in the three-week run of performances, ElseDora will also celebrate her 10th birthday May 9, that’s on opening night.
A veteran of Missoula Children’s Theatre productions and San Juan Community Theatre’s “Family Theatre” shows, ElseDora is no stranger to musical performances and expects to slip seamlessly into her character after the initial jitters subside.
“When I’m on stage, I feel like the character I’m playing,” said the Friday Harbor fourth grader.
There’s nothing like the power of positive thinking.
— Performances: Friday, Saturday, May 9-10, 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., Fri., Sat., May 15-17, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., May 11, May 18, 2 p.m. Tickets available at the SJCT Box Office or online, sjctheatre.org.