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Pittsburgh production of 'Annie' features Jefferson Hills family

| Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, 11:06 a.m.
Tracey Parsons and her three daughters are performing in Palisade Playhouse's production of 'Annie, the Musical.' Daughter Rachael, 12, stars as Annie; and Nicole, 9, a fourth grader at Gill Hall Elementary, and Danielle, 6, a first grader at Gill Hall, star as Tessie and Molly, respectively.
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Tracey Parsons and her three daughters are performing in Palisade Playhouse's production of 'Annie, the Musical.' Daughter Rachael, 12, stars as Annie; and Nicole, 9, a fourth grader at Gill Hall Elementary, and Danielle, 6, a first grader at Gill Hall, star as Tessie and Molly, respectively.

At 6 years old, Tracey Parsons hopped on the back of her brother's bicycle and rode to the local movie theater to see the 1982 premiere of “Annie,” the tale of a spirited young orphan in search of happiness and family.

As a sixth grader at Francis McClure Middle School in White Oak, Parsons reconnected with the character, as she took the stage for the first time with a starring role in the school's spring production of “Annie.”

Parsons, now 41, of Jefferson Hills, once again is performing in “Annie, the Musical,” this time with her three daughters by her side.

“It's been kind of like a homecoming in a way,” she said.

At the Palisade Playhouse in Greenfield, the Parsons family is starring in the community theater production that runs through Sept. 2.

In the double cast show, mom, Tracey, stars as Grace Farrell, while daughter Rachael, 12, a seventh grader at Pleasant Hills Middle School, has the lead role of Annie.

Daughters Nicole, 9, a fourth grader at Gill Hall Elementary, and Danielle, 6, a first grader at Gill Hall, star as Tessie and Molly, respectively.

“‘Annie' is all about family,” Tracey said. “It's such a good tie in for us because we're able to do something as a family.”

Tracey, who worked for many years in public relations before becoming a stay-at-home mom, has a background in music. She has a minor in voice from Duquesne University. Yet, it's been many years since she's been on stage.

Rachael began taking piano lessons at three years old. She started singing and acting lessons at 10 years old and has performed in six community theater shows in the last two years.

“I love to sing. Whenever I sing, I feel this joy coming out of me,” Rachael said, adding that she's becoming more comfortable on the stage and coming into her own.

The Parsons family has never before performed on stage together. This is Nicole and Danielle's first musical.

The show was initially supposed to be “The Sound of Music,” but was switched to “Annie.”

While the Parsons love “The Sound of Music,” Tracey had so many connections to “Annie” that when the show was switched it just felt right, she said.

The family auditioned knowing that they might not all get parts. That was something they prepared for, Tracey said.

“Theater's a hard-knock life, you could say. You have to understand how to take those knocks,” she said.

But they all got roles.

“They've said, ‘We might just as well call you the ‘Parsons' cast,” Tracey said, referring to her family as the “Von Parsons” — a nod to the von Trapp family from the “The Sound of Music.”

The cast is full of family. On the other double cast, a woman and her four children star in the show.

For the Parsons, even dad, Craig, has gotten involved in the show behind the scenes, helping out with the stage crew and set design.

“It's really a family-friendly culture,” Tracey said.

That is reflected with the actors and in the show itself, which is adapted to be family-friendly, she said.

The Parsons family will perform for three weeks in “Annie, the Musical.” Immediately following the show, Rachael will head to the Little Lake Theatre Company in Canonsburg to star as Junie B. Jones in “Junie B. Jones The Musical.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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