Home-schoolers bring ‘Annie’ to Lamp stage
They’re a group of home-schoolers — but they haven’t been at home much lately.
As members of Stage Right’s Arts in Education classes, the cyber school students and home-schoolers ages 6 to 19 have been busy preparing for their end-of-the-school-year musical production at the theater company’s School for the Performing Arts studio in Greensburg, led by Renata Marino, director and choreographer.
“Normally at this time of year we are doing two shows for each age group, but this year the chance presented itself to put them all together in one big show. ‘Annie’ is the perfect choice for so many reasons based on the talent of the group, but most importantly, this show fits the ethos of this community — everyone working together, old mentoring the young, and the indomitable spirit of ‘Annie,’” Marino says.
“Annie,” based on the comic strip by Harold Gray, will be performed May 3 and 4 at The Lamp Theatre, Irwin, with a few of the leading roles double-cast.
For the production on May 3, Evelyn Koedel, 13, of McKeesport, will portray Annie, with Jordan Keenan of Greensburg as Daddy Warbucks and Hannah Duckett of Pittsburgh as Grace, Warbucks’ secretary.
On May 4, Gracelyn Walker, 10, of West Mifflin, will step into Annie’s shoes, with her sister, Hannah, in the role of Grace, and Alex Hubble of Mt. Pleasant as Warbucks.
Best friends Hubble, 17, and Keenan, 16, have their own takes on playing Daddy Warbucks.
“I think we are (handling the role) a little differently,” Keenan says.
Neither sees Warbucks as “old,” they say. “I try to play him as a younger guy, middle age,” Hubble says.
They also see him as less of a villain and more of a good guy who happens to be wealthy and stern.
“He warms up to Annie like that,” Hubble says, snapping his fingers. “With people he likes he can be nice and he does care,” Keenan adds.
Assisting Marino in getting the students ready for the stage are Nick Lenz, music director; Madelynne Caralli, assistant choreographer; and Hannah Liotta, stage manager. Stage Right’s Natalie Estok will perform the “villain” role as Miss Hannigan.
An amazing process
“The ‘Annie’ cast meets once a week for two hours for a total of 10 rehearsals,” says Marino. “The first week is auditions and the remainder of rehearsals are getting whatever we can accomplish in two hours. Run-throughs don’t happen until the last week, where we meet every day on the stage. It’s an amazing process that all of the students take very seriously.”
The director says the popular musical “Annie” is always a great show to produce.
“It’s family friendly with many life lessons to learn and a wonderful score that most people are familiar with,” she says. “We chose ‘Annie’ for our Arts in Education group because we have so many talented preteens and felt they would add the perfect energy for the end of year production.”
Marino says “Annie” is a special musical for her – and one that she knows quite well.
“I’ve played Mrs. Pugh, Lily St. Regis and Miss Hannigan and have choreographed the show probably 10 times,” she says. “It’s a show I hold near and dear to my heart.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.