'Annie Jr.' coming to Porter Theater this month
Students at Conn-Area Catholic are preparing for their eighth annual Performing Arts Club spring musical which will be presented at the Edwin S. Porter Theater in the Connellsville Community Center on Feb. 23 and 24.
This year's presentation is “Annie Jr.'
There is no cost to attend the show, in part because of a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
“Annie Jr.” is the story of Annie, a little orphan girl, who desperately longs to find and be reunited with her birth parents.
Annie, played by Madison Bell, lives in a New York City Municipal Orphanage with six other orphans played by Amanda Knapp, Lauren Bubarth, Leah Herman, Hailey Sitko, Audra Holonich and Gabrielle Goodwin. Miss Hannigan, played by Maria Ruggieri, manages the orphanage. She not only hates her job, but little girls, too.
Annie finds herself in a heap of trouble when she runs away from the orphanage and is found and taken back by Lt. Ward, played by A.J. Ewing. Just as Miss Hannigan is about to really give it to Annie, Grace Farrell played by Bailee Frey, private secretary to billionaire Oliver Warbucks played by Gage Goodwin, arrives looking for an orphan to spend Christmas in the Warbucks Mansion. Annie is the orphan selected by Miss Farrell, and off they go to spend Christmas in the lap of luxury.
At the mansion, Annie meets Mr. Warbucks' staff, including the butler, Drake, played by Gregory Lincoln, chef Mrs. Pugh played by Lauren Tomasko, housekeeper Mrs. Greer played by Lydia Newton, a servant played by Brian Sykes and housemaids Annette and Cecille played by Bela Ronzio and Elizabeth Kozel.
They are joyful to have a child in the home for Christmas. Unexpectedly to Mr. Warbucks, he comes to love Annie very much. In fact, he loves her so much that he initiates an all-out search for her parents, which includes a $50,000 reward.
With a big money reward, sinister Rooster Hannigan, played by Dylan Bubarth and his accomplice Lily St. Regis, played by Elizabeth Landman, attempt to fool everyone into believing that they are Annie's birth parents.
Ultimately, their plan is discovered thanks to help from Warbucks' sometimes-friend President Roosevelt played by Andrew Partridge and the FBI.
Once it is discovered that “the jig is up” both Hannigans and Lily St. Regis are escorted to jail and everyone celebrates Annie's adoption and Christmas at the Warbucks mansion. Annie receives a special surprise when a New York City police officer played by Zaybraillia Sykes, brings a gift for Christmas — Annie's beloved dog, Sandy.
“Annie Jr.” musical favorites include “Maybe,” “You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” “Easy Street” and “Hard-Knock Life.”
“Annie Jr.” casts student McKinley Klotz as Annie's pet, and they both sing the famous and heart-warming song “Tomorrow.”
“Annie Jr.” is directed by Susan Uhazie Camele and choreographed by Lauren Shroyer Hamilton.
According to the director, the stage will be transformed to the hustling and bustling streets of New York City where the audience will meet the “Stars-To-Be” played by Hannah Hampshire and Anna Pilla as they arrive with plans to make it big in New York City.
New this year to Conn-Area's production is state-of-the-art scenery.
Uhazie Camele said thanks to the generosity of Bailey Machine Company, King's Racing, Stone & Company Inc. and O.C. Cluss Lumber/Building Supplies, set designer Bill Colvin and his construction crew have created scenery that will help the audience follow the story, feeling as if they were really in the New York City Municipal Orphanage and at the Warbucks Mansion.
Colvin has joined the team this year after a 35-year professional run in musical and play production with Connellsville Area High School.
Student stage crew members include Caelen Stevenson, Amanda Antol, Devante Barrett, Taylor Hennessey, Tyler Fissella and Ryan Reitler.
Once again, students from Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High who make up the junior-senior high production staff are assisting Conn-Area Catholic students and adult volunteers with the production.
Student helpers include Liz Camele (assistant director), Jon Nace, Kennedy Scarry, Sela Fetsko (choreography assistant), Grace Goodwin (choreography assistant), Katie Haky, Lauren Kosslow (stage manager), Piper Scarry, Abbey Sitko (stage manager and choreography assistant), Jessica Wolfe and Gabby Yourish.
During the performances, these students will take a large role in preparing the cast and running the show.
“This musical production is Conn-Area Catholic's gift to our community, so tickets are free. We ask that everyone please bring a canned food item to be donated to an area food bank,” said Uhazie Camele.
Refreshments will be available for purchase.
“Little girls who come to ‘Annie' are invited to wear their Annie costumes. Everyone is invited to come out and see the show and have a great time,” said Uhazie Camele.
“Annie Jr.,” the book, was written by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin.
The Connellsville Area Community Center is located at 201 E. Fairview Ave..
The Feb. 23 performance is at 7:30 p.m. and the Feb. 24 performance is at 2 p.m.
Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.