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PTC bringing Annie' to life in Bangor

BANGOR - This holiday season, Penobscot Theatre Company is undertaking one of its most ambitious projects to date.

The musical classic 'Annie' will be gracing the stage at the Bangor Opera House this December, with performances running from Dec. 5 through 29.

'Annie' is based on the long-running comic strip 'Little Orphan Annie' by Harold Gray. The strip ran for over 85 years, inspiring film adaptations and a radio show (a show that made an appearance of its own in last year's PTC holiday production of 'A Christmas Story'). However, it is the 1977 stage musical not to mention the 1982 film version of that musical that is the 'Annie' that holds the most meaning for us.

It's a beloved show that hasn't been seen in these parts for quite some time. It wasn't long after her January arrival that PTC artistic director Bari Newport knew she wanted to change that.

DSC_8034'When I first came here last January, we had a big open call,' said Newport. 'Lots and lots of children came in to audition; [doing 'Annie'] seemed like a no-brainer. Nathan [Halvorson, PTC artistic associate and 'Annie' choreographer] and I talked about it; it was something the theater had wanted to do for a long time.'

'Every season should have a bouquet,' she added. 'That's what this show is.'

Of course, a show like this one is an ambitious undertaking for a director. It's a large cast that runs 17 deep (counting Zuzu, the bulldog playing Sandy), along with six musicians. Add in the fact that the roles of Annie and Molly are double cast, and you're looking at 25 people nine of them children. It's no small task for a director, keeping all cylinders firing.

'The interesting thing about directing a show like this,' Newport said, 'is that there are so many different types of people in this show. We've got kids of all ages; there's a dog in the show. There are just so many different types of communication to deal with.'

Newport is no stranger to the show she was in it herself back in the day but directing it is something else entirely.

'Directing the show offers a very different perspective than performing it,' she said. She went on to talk about the fact that despite the show's being set in 1933, it's a lot more relevant to today than you might think.

'There are a lot of political references in this show that really resonate even today,' said Newport. Of course, some of those references didn't necessarily click right away with the younger members of the cast.

'We spent a lot of time with the kids, talking about this stuff. They didn't [necessarily] know about the Great Depression, about FDR or the Roaring '20s.'

Halvorson, who is on the verge of completing his MFA at the University of Iowa, serves as choreographer for the show. He's been in town for a while, but his job started well before he arrived in the flesh.

DSC_7931'I taught Christie [Robinson, a member of the cast] a dance via Skype while I was in Iowa,' Halvorson said. 'And from there, she taught the kids.'

But he had to start early there are 19 musical numbers in all. That's a whole lot of work to do without a whole lot of time in which to do it. But by all accounts, this is going to be one labor of love that can expect to find some serious success.

'Some of our scheduled performances are already sold out,' Newport said. 'Our student matinees have been sold out for a month.'


Why so much positive buzz?

'It's the sort of show that appeals to all sorts of people,' said Newport. 'Even non-theater folks have 'Annie' connections.'

(As a personal aside, it is very possible that my own very personal connection with the theater in general might not exist without 'Annie.' The first live theater that I ever saw was a production of 'Annie' at Bangor High's Peakes Auditorium presented by Bangor Community Theatre. It would have been 1984, I think I was around eight years old. It was my first exposure to a world that would become very important to me. Suffice it to say, I have a bit of a soft spot for 'Annie.')

'It's a father/daughter story that is so incredibly heartwarming,' added Halvorson. 'It just feels holiday to me. [Annie and Daddy Warbucks] find each other; there's a holiday miracle here. And the whole show happens at holiday time; we're in a Christmas explosion for 30 minutes.'

Of course, with 25 performances spread over the month of December including the morning of Dec. 24 a lot is being asked of the cast and crew.

'On the first night of rehearsal, we discussed what the show means,' said Newport. 'There was a lot of talk from the adults about giving something to young kids. It's a real commitment for the cast, for the parents of these great kids and a commitment by the theater.'

DSC_7961But behind all of the hard work and time invested by so many people is an end result that will provide a massive return on that investment. As Newport put it:

'It feels from my end that [PTC] is giving a gift to the whole community.'

It is indeed a gift; as an added bonus, it's a gift that you don't even have to wait until Christmas to open.

Penobscot Theatre Company's production of 'Annie' is running from Dec. 5 through Dec. 29. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the PTC website at penobscottheatre.org or call the theatre box office at 942-3333.

Chatting with the children - the young cast's thoughts about Annie'

There are a whole lot of vibrant and vivacious young ladies who are involved with PTC's production of 'Annie.' We took a little time to get some of their thoughts regarding their favorite parts of being involved with this wonderful play.

Kate Adam 'Pepper'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Kate: I like pretending; I like being somebody entirely different than who I am.

Favorite song? 'NYC' and 'Hard Knock Life'

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Amanda Bustard 'Duffy'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Amanda: The cast. They're all really funny and everybody is really great.

Favorite song? 'Hard Knock Life'

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Emma Campbell 'Molly'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Emma: Getting to be with my friends every day and getting to be with my Annie.

Favorite song? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Kate Fogg 'Annie'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Kate: The whole experience. I love working with all of these wonderful people.

Favorite song? 'Tomorrow'

Favorite dance? 'Hard Knock Life'

Molly Hagerty 'Tessie'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Molly: Getting to be with all of my friends and getting to be in this great show.

Favorite song? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Maia Loeb 'Kate'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Maia: Everything, probably. What's not to like?

Favorite song? Every song!

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Lana Sabbagh 'Annie'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Lana: Definitely the cast. Everyone is so much fun.

Favorite song? 'I Don't Need Anything But You'

Favorite dance? 'Hard Knock Life'

Abby Thompson 'July'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Abby: I like the presence of being onstage.

Favorite song? 'Hard Knock Life'

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

Raiya Vikberg 'Molly'

TME: What is your favorite thing about being involved with 'Annie'?

Raiya: Singing. I really love to sing!

Favorite song? 'New Deal for Christmas'

Favorite dance? 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile'

-

There's one more thing that needs to be made clear about these young ladies. These girls are eminently talented and adorable for sure, but they were also unfailingly enthusiastic about this show. I spoke to them while they were in the full-on throes of tech weekend, a trying time for even the most seasoned professional actor. Yet these girls were still unwaveringly polite and absolutely thrilled about what they were doing.

So I offer kudos to all involved - to the director, choreographer, cast and crew of course, but also to the parents. The excitement and joy expressed by these girls speaks volumes. And you can bet that you'll see a whole lot of that joy bursting forth from the stage.

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 12:03

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