Corbin H. Crable
The Gardner Community Theatre is bringing a beloved classic to the stage as it presents ‘Annie’ this week and next week.
The rags-to-riches story of an orphan who captures the heart of a wealthy miser in Depression-era America made its debut on Broadway in 1977; in 1982 it was made into a film starring Carol Burnett and Albert Finney. Before its appearance onstage, ‘Little Orphan Annie’ was a comic strip that appeared in daily newspapers nationwide, beginning in 1924 and ceasing publication only this year, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Performances for ‘Annie’ will be at 7 p.m. July 9 and 10 and July 16 and 17. Additional performances will be at 2 p.m. July 11 and July 18. All performances will take place in the Gardner Edgerton High School auditorium. Tickets are $7 if purchased at Price Chopper and $8 at the door.
Jim Hurd, who plays Daddy Warbucks in GCT’s production, said the wide appeal of ‘Annie’ lies in its familiar songs and heartwarming story.
“Everyone’s going to know ‘Tomorrow,’” Hurd said. “The song my parents always (sing) is ‘Easy Street.’ There’s one song that comes to life for me, and it’s only in the play. It’s called ‘Why Should I Change a Thing?’ Daddy Warbucks is at a crossroads and must decide whether to invite Annie into his life. It’s a very emotional moment, and for me, it’s a really cool song to sing.”
Ten-year-old Emily Mauer, who plays the title role, said that in audition to the songs, she, too, enjoys the emotional growth the characters undergo as the play progresses.
“I love it when Daddy Warbucks and Annie talk about how he’s always been missing someone to share his life with,” Mauer said.
She said that although she’s already seen the 1982 film, she’s hoping to steer away from actress Aileen Quinn’s portrayal of the spunky orphan.
“I’m trying to give the character my own touch. I’ve tried to make the character my own,” Mauer said.
For Hurd, however, the fun with being involved in ‘Annie’ lies in getting back to his theater roots.
“I’ve always enjoyed acting and singing, and this is an opportunity to get back into that,” said Hurd, whose 13-year-old daughter also appears in the play as a dancer. “My daughter and I are in this together, so this is a great opportunity for us.”
Hurd said that’s part of the appeal of ‘Annie’ – the way in which actors from different generations can appreciate the timeless music and story.
“It’s just going to be a fun show to watch,” he said. “The best part is, (Warbucks and Annie) get together in the end, and the heroes win. He’s a cold-hearted businessman who makes millions of dollars, and he falls in love with an orphan.”
That’s not to say, however, that audiences won’t enjoy seeing the villain everyone loves to hate – Miss Hannigan, the orphanage supervisor, played by Spring Hill resident Sarah Ackerman-Hale.
“Sarah is amazing, but she’s nothing like Miss Hannigan in real life,” Mauer said. “She’s kind and caring.”
Hurd said that, like Mauer, he has enjoyed working with the cast and crew of the production, specifically Paul Fibelkorn, music director.
“He’s such a positive mentor,” Hurd said. “That’s the fun part of this – getting to know people.”
Hurd said that in GCT’s fifth year of existence, the group has enjoyed finding new faces in both its production casts and its audiences.
“Over the last five years, we’ve gotten more people from the area. It’s not just a Gardner base,” Hurd said. “Now we’re spreading out and getting talent from other towns. All of the transients from the thespian world have landed here.”
‘Annie’ is directed by Annette Cook, with orchestral direction by Will Biggs and choreography by Alex Shaw. For more information on the performances and a full cast list, visit www.gardnercommunitytheatre.org.