Greenwood Little Theatre is preparing for a two-week run of the popular, heartwarming musical “Annie.”
“It’s a show that people readily identify with,” said David Dallas, the musical’s director. “It’s got kids in it; it’s a great story; and it’s a good seasonal show for the Christmas season.”
The musical will open at 7 p.m. Thursday at the W.M. Whittington Jr. Playhouse. The show will also be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. next Saturday and Sunday. It will be performed the following week at 7 p.m. Dec. 19-20 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 21-22.
“We’ve already sold 900 tickets to this show,” said Dallas. “We have one show that’s already sold out, and then there’s another show that’s about 10 seats away from being sold out.”
The large-scale production has been double-cast.
“We had a lot of good people audition — really tremendous people audition — and particularly the orphans were all so good,” said Dallas. “So I wanted to get as many of the children into the show as possible. ... There’s a lot of talent in this community.”
The stars of the show are Ainsley Melton, 11, and Isabelle O’Brien, 13, who will both be playing the title character of Annie on rotating nights.
“I’ve always loved ‘Annie,’” said Isabelle.
Ainsley and Isabelle have been hard at work since August perfecting their shared part. The girls both said they have enjoyed the unique experience of sharing the role of Annie.
“We’ve grown close as friends,” said Ainsley.
Dallas said Ainsley and Isabelle have each made the character of Annie her own.
“They brought themselves to the role,” he said. “They both are great singers, and they are going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
Another unique aspect of the show for the two “Annie” actresses is they are both performing with family.
Ainsley’s mother, Shannon Melton, is playing the part of Grace Farrell.
Isabelle’s father, Trey O’Brien, is playing the part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and her sister, Sarah Frances O’Brien, will play the role of Star-To-Be.
Shannon said it is a special experience being on stage with her daughter.
Isabelle’s mother, Elizabeth, said it’s been fun to watch her family on the stage.
“I’m very proud of all of their hard work,” she said.
Elizabeth said she believes this will one day be a cherished memory for both girls playing Annie.
“I think it’s a really sweet friendship that Ainsley and Isabelle have developed,” she said. “It really makes me happy that they are able to cheer each other on. ... It’s a special gift that’s been a byproduct of just being in the play.”
The musical also features some newcomers to the stage, such as 9-year-old Jana Dees, who plays the orphan Kate.
Jana said she’s watched the movie “many times.” She’s been a fan since she performed a dance routine to “It’s A Hard Knock Life” that she learned during class at Expressions Dance Studio.
Adult cast members in main roles include Connie Black as Miss Aggie Hannigan and Paul Brown as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks.
Although Dallas said there will be a few special elements added to the show, the Greenwood Little Theatre production will be the rags-to-riches tale everyone is familiar with.
“The thing that is going to be different that I think people are really going to enjoy is seeing people in their own community — people who they know, friends and neighbors — bringing this story to life,” Dallas said.
The New York Times once estimated that “Annie” is produced 700 to 900 times each year in the United States
The Broadway musical was based on the popular comic strip by Harold Gray.
The musical won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The book and score by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin include some of the most well-known and beloved musical theater hits, such as “Tomorrow.”
The musical features a charming main character, little orphan Annie. In New York City in the 1930s, Annie is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of an orphanage, which is run by the cruel Miss Hannigan.
With the help of the other orphans, Annie escapes the orphanage and sets off on an adventure.
Dallas said he has an “amazing” group of cast members.
“We have a really strong cast from top to bottom, and the ensemble has been terrific,” he said. “They are all doing a fantastic job. It’s been really fun for me to watch as a director. ... This is going to be a great production of ‘Annie.’”
Dallas said he’s proud to be part of this production not only because of the talented cast members, but also because of the many volunteers who have stepped up to help out.
Among those are Kat Coxwell, who will play multiple roles in the ensemble and is the lead set designer and set construction director, and Jeanne Gewalt, who is serving as assistant director and costume designer.
“Community theater is really a labor of love, and it takes a strong commitment to do it,” said Dallas. “I believe community theater is really important. It’s how people develop a better understanding of one another, their neighbors and the world around them. Art is a great way to share.”
To make a reservation, visit www.greenwoodlittletheatre.com or call or text 662-947-1075.
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.