Stage Right offers four versions of its musical 'Annie'

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Leapin' Lizards! There are four versions of the adorable little orphan with the big voice in Stage Right's holiday production of everybody's favorite musical, “Annie.”

They're not on stage at the same time, and John Noble, who plays the one-and-only Daddy Warbucks, says each of the girls adds a little something different to her performance of the role.

“It's a wonderful difference,” Noble says. “Each one is their own Annie. It's exhilarating for me when we rehearse in rapid-fire succession.”

Portraying the mop-top orphan who wins over the gruff millionaire with her smile and positive attitude are: Sophia Herr of Latrobe, fourth-grade student at Mountain View Elementary School (10 a.m. Friday); Grace Rusnica of Irwin, fifth-grade student at West Hempfield Elementary School (7:30 p.m. Friday); Julia Boyle of Greensburg, sixth-grade student at Aquinas Academy (7:30 p.m. Saturday), and Carolyn Jerz of Greensburg, home-schooled fifth-grade student (2 p.m. Sunday).

Carolyn says she has appeared in two other productions with Stage Right in ensemble roles, but being cast as Annie is a special honor for a young actress.

“It's the part every girl dreams of,” she says.

Based on the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie that debuted in the 1920s, “Annie” ran for nearly six years on Broadway and won the Tony Award for best musical. Its score features such memorable songs like “Tomorrow,” “It's the Hard-Knock Life,” “Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” and “Maybe.”

The setting is a New York City orphanage in 1933, where a little girl is determined to find her parents. After an unsuccessful escape, she is returned to the orphanage only to be chosen by billionaire Oliver Warbucks to spend Christmas at his mansion.

Besides four full casts of Annies and orphans, adult actors adding adventure to the story are the conniving villains, Joe Pedulla as Rooster, Alyssa Zagorac as Lilly St. Regis and Renata Marino as Miss Hannigan.

Other cast members include Anthony Marino as Bert Healy, Rachael Tresco as Grace Farrell and David Mahokey as Drake. Cindy Baltzer is musical director and Renata Marino is choreographer.

Noble, in his 21st year as a frequent performer on community theater stages, says the role of Daddy Warbucks, which he performed six years ago, is special to him. His favorite scene is when he takes Annie to the Roxie Theatre in New York City and she holds his hand when they cross the street.

“That's my moment — when I go from being Oliver J. Warbucks to being Daddy Warbucks. It's very sweet. I've probably done 150 shows, and no show makes me happier than this one.”

The four young Annies in the Stage Right production are finding reasons to be happy, too.

“It's really amazing for me,” says Sophia, 9. “I've come really far since I first came to Stage Right when I was 5 years old.”

Carolyn says she was happy to meet Sandy, the dog in the show, whose name actually is Ruby. “He came right to me when I called him on stage,” she says.

The notion of Annie being adopted by a rich man made Julia stop and think. “I love my parents, but I always thought it would be interesting to be adopted by a billionaire,” she says.

And Grace says audiences will enjoy seeing “Annie” at The Palace Theatre because “she will make you smile. She's a very positive little girl.”

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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