- By gentleguide
- On Wed 17 jul 2019
Based on the comic strip version of Little Orphan Annie, the musical theatre version of Annie has been around for more than 40 years now, with revivals and tours galore. The original Broadway show won seven Tony awards, and you can’t really go anywhere and not find the show and its music referenced in pop culture somehow. Starting this weekend, Urbandale Community Theatre (UCT) gets to present it in a brand new venue for shows, Franklin Jr. High in Des Moines.
The director for the Urbandale version of Annie is Kelsey Rae Moran. She’s definitely dedicated to this particular production considering she actually lives an hour away, where she’s a Vocal Music teacher as well as the head Speech and Drama Director at Adair-Casey/Guthrie Center Schools. So why is she so involved with a show that takes her so far from home?
“Because our school year is so jam-packed with concerts, contests, activities, and performances, my focus is solely on my kids,” says Moran. “They deserve my time and energy, and there is something special about being their director and watching them learn, grow, and succeed. I love what we have created in our district and community; the arts are definitely alive and well. So, I try to save my summers for me and getting my performance fix in.”
“I was first introduced to UCT when Kelly Thompson, a good friend of mine, directed State Fair four years ago and casually encouraged me to audition,” says Moran. “I did - not expecting to be cast - and lo and behold, I landed one of the lead roles. Soon after, I joined the Board of Directors, and I have been involved in some capacity ever since.“
“This summer (and last summer, as well), I chose to keep my director hat on - because, well, why not? I was fortunate to have been able to direct the original Six-On-Six script in my hometown last summer for the Guthrie Center All School Reunion. When asked if I wanted to direct Annie this summer for Urbandale Community Theatre - my first answer was a resounding ‘No.’ I needed a break and wanted to take the summer off completely. However, after some careful consideration and a lot of friends and colleagues encouraging me to give it a whirl, I changed my mind and accepted the offer. I directed Annie five years ago at school, so I thought it would be fun to have another crack at it - plus, it is a really fun show. I am really glad that I changed my mind - we are having a blast and the talent on our stage is truly mind-blowing.”
Since they typically only do one show a year, Urbandale’s productions are typically large-scale affairs, with plenty of people involved from many different area communities. Moran has quite a bit to choose from to put on this show. “We have a rich history and tradition of producing one giant, typically family-friendly show every summer, and while I know we would love to be able to do more, I think there is a certain draw and excitement in knowing that we only do the one. In that, however, I feel that we throw our all into making it the smash hit of the year. People know who we are, and they want to be involved - whether they are in the production itself or attending one of our shows. UCT's Annie has crazy-talented kids, an adorable dog, well-seasoned adult actors, and we really bring a fresh new take to this American classic.”
“We have 36 (37 counting our dog ‘Sandy’) cast members who range in age from 7 to 70. We have been fortunate to be able to cast several family units this summer, and watching these family members learn, grow, laugh, and spend time with each other, also while making new friends, has been a joy to witness. I love that about community theatre - we often find our ‘family’ in the arts, and I think it's all the more special when people who are already your family get to experience that special theatre magic of belonging. Additionally, we have a full orchestral pit, as well as over a dozen production staff and crew members working on the behind-the-scenes of this show.”
And these people are committed! The character of Daddy Warbucks (played by Dave Wagner) is traditionally shown in both the original comic strip and the musical as bald. While Wagner has a healthy head of hair, he’s shaved it off for this production... live on television earlier this week, to help promote the show! Here’s a picture taken before and the “event”, to show the difference!!
Annie also showcases a number of performers with extensive experience in the area and beyond. Mary Bricker once again gets a star turn as orphanage mistress Miss Hannigan, and the Star-to-Be (with the featured song of NYC) is Savannah Trotter, back in Des Moines this summer from her collegiate theatre studies in New York City! And it’s not just the on-stage talent that will amaze you in Annie.
As mentioned, Annie will be the first full-scale theatre production in the Franklin Jr. High theatre space. One of the more unique features there is the largest television screen set-up in Central Iowa. Working with the Scenic Design and Build team of Dan Chase and Carter Bricker-Smith, Moran has taken a minimalist approach to the sets in order to utilize the larger-than-life visuals available to the Annie production. “We are excited to showcase this new avenue of technology and think it will bring a fresh new look to such an iconic show! We are truly excited to be the first theatre to perform at Franklin Junior High and hope that we are able to help pave the way for more theatre companies to utilize this amazing space.”
Tickets for Annie are available now at urbandaletheatre.com/tickets, as well as at the door each night. Shows run July 19-21 and 26-28 - 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm matinees on Sundays. Franklin Jr. High is located at 4801 Franklin Avenue in Des Moines.