THE popularity of the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, which ran in newspapers around the world from 1924 to 2010, is shown by its adaptation into a radio show, two films and a 1977 Broadway hit musical, Annie, that has been the basis of three movies.
As the title character is an 11-year-old orphan who escapes from a New York institution to search for the parents she believes to be still alive, it’s not surprising that the musical has been popular with young performers and audiences.
The show was an appropriate choice for the first production of Newcastle theatre company High Street Productions, which was established last year with the aim of getting more people involved in the performing arts. As High Street Productions is initially focusing on young performers, it is presenting Annie KIDS, a 40-minute version of the show with a cast of 27 who are aged six to 14. The musical will be staged at St Philip’s Christian College Theatre, in Waratah, with weekend shows between May 4 and 12.
Michael Cooper, who is the director of performing arts at the Waratah school and established High Street Productions, said that 207 year 1 to year 8 students from Newcastle schools were attending the company’s classes.
High Street’s first adult-cast production, The Drowsy Chaperone, a lively send-up of classic musicals that won five Tony awards, including best book of a musical and best musical score, when it played on Broadway in 2006, will be staged at the St Philip’s Theatre in October, with Newcastle area performers aged 16 and over invited to audition on April 15 and 16. Auditions bookings: events.spcc.nsw.edu.au.
Cooper so enjoyed the Broadway production when he was holidaying in New York that he went to Melbourne to see its initial Australian staging in 2010.
The cast of Annie KIDS is headed by Eliza Durie, who plays Annie, Jay Scott as Oliver Warbucks, a billionaire who is persuaded to have an orphan as a Christmas guest to give him publicity that will help his business, and Carissa Herd, as Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ secretary who is able to offer him calm advice.
Eliza Durie says that Annie is thoughtful to other people’s feelings and has never given up under the bullying of the orphanage administrator. Jay Scott says Warbucks is initially very stiff in maintaining charge of things, but a more caring side is revealed when Annie comes to stay. And Carissa Herd sees Miss Farrell as someone who can make the best of life for those around her.
St Philip’s Theatre is on the corner of Station and Harriet streets, Waratah. Annie KIDS has shows on May 4 at 6.30pm, and May 5 and 12 at 2pm and 6.30pm. Tickets: $10. tickets.spcc.nsw.edu.au.
AS the title indicates, people who are preparing for a marriage ceremony want it to be bright and trouble-free. But when things go wrong, as happens in Robin Hawdon’s comedy, chaos can result.
Hawdon, who is one of Britain’s most highly regarded current writers of farcical works, makes this a lively look at the two hours before a well-planned wedding is due to start, and the staging team headed by director Brian Wark has audience members laughing from beginning to end.
The action takes place in the wedding suite of a hotel outside London, with the groom, Bill (Lee Mayne) waking up just after 9am and finding an attractive woman (Bridget Barry) in bed beside him.
Bill has a hangover from the previous night’s stag party that was held in the hotel, and hides the woman, Judy, in the bathroom when other people, including housemaid Julie (Sandra Aldred) and best man Tom (Carl Gregory), begin to arrive. Things increasingly go wrong, especially when bride Rachel (Madeline Valentinis) and her mother, Daphne (Amanda Woolford), appear.
Excellent use is made of the doors in Chris Bird’s very real two-room set and the confusion about who is who that results from the names Judy and Julie never loses its funniness.
The costumes also add to the fun, with Daphne’s over-the-top wedding garb and constant singing of Here Comes the Bride leading one of the others to refer to her as something out of a pantomime.
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