What makes Annie so irresistible to the 55 children, ages 9 to 17, who willingly give up their summer afternoons to attend play practice?
Director and choreographer Jennifer Faliveno—Miss Fal to the kids—believes it has something to do with the inspiring lyrics, upbeat music and happy ending. “It’s hard to resist Annie. She’s spunky and cute…the ultimate optimist!”
With the show coming up this Thursday and Friday , July 21 an 22, the cast and crew are putting on the finishing touches. The scenery includes lots of beds and torn-up looking linens for the orphanage, a Christmas tree and fancy chair for Daddy Warbuck’s mansion and a realistic-looking Radio City marquee.
Ten-year-old Grace Gault, who plays Annie, found that some costumes are easier to assemble than others. After experimenting with three curly, red wigs, Grace settled on the one her grandmother spotted in a Pennsylvania costume shop just last week and dutifully sent via express mail. “One wig was too floppy and kept falling off my head. The other one wasn’t curly enough. But the one I am going to wear has plenty of curls, is the perfect color and fits just right!” exclaims Gault, sounding a lot like Goldilocks.
Gault, who recently appeared in a childrens’ theater production of the Secret Garden in New York, is eagerly anticipating her day in the spotlight. “This is my first leading part,” says the soon-to-be 6th grader. “Being Annie is a dream come true for me. My sisters and I have been singing the music—especially my favorite, “Tomorrow”–since I was in nursery school. ”
Just a few days prior to auditioning for the Summer Music show, Gault and fellow cast member Gina Gagliano, who plays Molly, the orphanage’s most precocious orphan went to New York to audition for Broadway’s upcoming production of the well-known show (scheduled to open in the Fall 2012). Both girls received callbacks but won’t know if they’ve landed parts until another round of auditions in the fall. “We stood in line for four hours. It wrapped completely around the whole city block. But I had fun being in Manhattan and making friends on line,” Gault explains.
Speaking of friends, although Verona’s show doesn’t feature a real dog, audiences won’t likely be disappointed in 5th grader David Karpinski’s rendition of Annie’s faithful companion. (David can’t wait to don his doggie duds—a costume that have even the real Sandy fooled!)
On the live music front, some of Verona’s finest professional musicians including VHS jazz band leader Max Morden, H.B. Whitehorne middle school assistant principal Howard Freund and four others, compose the show’s lively band. “The music in this show is unforgettable,” admits Morden, who is also the director of the town’s long-running Summer Music program. “There are so many crowd-pleasers it will be interesting to see which goes over the best in Verona. My guess is it will either be “A Hard Knock Life”, which is sung by the ensemble or “Tomorrow”, sung by Annie, of course.”
Staffers report that advance ticket sales are strong. “So don’t wait until tomorrow to buy your tickets,” jokes Morden. “Seriously, there are still seats available. So come on out to support our kids and have a great time. The whole family will enjoy this wholesome, feel-good show.”
I got my tickets for Friday night!