Applause Children's Theater takes on 'Annie Jr.'

Photo by Brian Williams

Opening night of kids-only version of iconic play is May 3

Applause Children’s Theater will take on a kids-only version of the iconic Broadway classic  “Annie.”

A cast of 78 children in elementary through high school have been rehearsing since January on “Annie Jr.”  They’ll put on six shows over the course of two weekends, beginning with opening night on Friday, May 3, followed by a matinee and evening show on Saturday, May 4 and concluding with the same schedule the following Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11. All of the performances will be on the stage inside the Flamson Middle School Auditorium.

“Annie” is an all-time favorite for ACT Director and Founder Vickky Mullin.

“It’s been on Broadway for so long and so many famous actresses have played Annie,” Mullin said. “It seems like the part every little girl wants to play. It’s a real favorite of mine. When I was in musical theater some of my best friends were in the Broadway tour show of ‘Annie.’ Definitely a show I wanted to do.”

“Annie Jr.” also allows for the spotlight to shift to ACT’s younger actors.

“We have done so many shows that highlight our older actors,” Mullin said. “I wanted to do this one to highlight the little kids.”

As has become common-place in ACT productions, Mullin said they double-cast the show to give more kids the opportunity to have leads and more speaking parts.

“Double-cast all of the main leads and pretty thick actually down to the butler and then even some of the small speaking roles in Hooverville,” Mullin said. “Some of those chorus parts have three or four lines and we even double-cast those speaking roles so more kids would have the chance to speak lines in the play. It gives more kids the opportunity to be a lead and for more kids to be a star.”

During the shows when the children are not playing the leads, they perform in the chorus. Mullin added the shows are high-quality productions.

“We are called a children’s theater so I think people get it in their head that we are like an elementary school play,” Mullin said. “But it isn’t. It is really a Broadway production. So if they have never seen one of our productions people walk away in awe of the children up there because they really do turn it on.”

“Annie, Jr.” is similar to the Broadway version of “Annie,” but the script is shortened, and the songs have been rekeyed for young voices.

Annie is a spunky redheaded orphan adopted from her grimy girls’ home, run by the evil Miss Hannigan. Annie finds herself in the care of the endearing tycoon Daddy Warbucks and his mansion staff in 1930s New York City.

The crew of Depression-era orphans, New Yorkers and dancing servants will perform well-known “Annie” classics such as “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” and, of course, “Tomorrow.”

Mullin is excited for opening night.

“It’s going to be fantastic,” Mullin said. “The costumes are amazing, the sets are amazing and the kids have been fantastic. These kids are dancing and signing at such a high caliber level. They have worked hard for a long time. They just really pulled it together.

ACT’s mission is to give local youth the opportunity to perform in Broadway musicals. Any child who signs up and auditions is cast in the show. ACT tries to involve the children in other areas of production, such as set design and choreography. Everyone seemingly chips in, parents and even some of ACT’s board members help with costumes and set design.

The theater group was started by Mullin in August of 2017. Their first production was the “Wizard of Oz.” They performed three shows and sold out each time.

Children pay a fee to be in the four-month-long-production. The fee includes a t-shirt and all their costumes. Scholarships are available for those who need financial assistance.

Applause will be holding a two-week long Broadway Bound Summer Day Camp from June 17 to 28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at ACT’s Studio, 1413 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles. The summer camp will be packed with daily activities, including musical theater study, acting development, set design, and costume design. The cost is $295 per child, with a discount for siblings.

ACT’s next full production will be “Beauty and the Beast.”

Performances of “Annie Jr.” will be May 3 at 7 p.m. and May 4, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. as well as May 10 at 7 p.m. and May 11 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m inside the Flamson Middle School Auditorium on 2405 Spring St., Paso Robles. Tickets are $15 and available at www.actanniejrtickets.eventbrite.com or by calling Mullin at 805-610-7187.

For more information on performances, summer camp or upcoming workshops visit www.applausechildrenstheater.com.

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