April 25, 2015
School & Youth
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The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow! Jones Elementary Drama Club Performs Annie Jr.

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March 6, 2012

By Nicole Gray

“Sandy was an orphan too,” was what attendees were greeted with on the Friday, March 2 opening of “Annie Jr.” at Jones Elementary school. The cry was courtesy to one of the Jones Elementary drama club members taking donations for two local SPCA no-kill shelters in support of their cast mate Griffin, a two and a half year-old rescue dog who rounds out the productions cast.

Based on the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip, “Annie Jr.,” featuring music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Michael Charnin, is the story of a young girl who yearns for a way to leave the orphanage behind and find a place to call home. Set in 1933 New York City, we first meet Annie and her fellow orphans as Annie dreams of the day her parents will finally come to reclaim her in the plays first musical number “Maybe."

Even though the play is staged in the Jones Elementary cafeteria, the production makes use of the cozy space with creative set placement and audience interaction throughout the performance. Considering the high quality of the performances from the actors to the stage crew, it is interesting to note that this is the first stage performance for many of the Jones Elementary drama club players. Even Griffin, as Annie’s canine companion, Sandy, is a delightful and attentive presence on stage.

Sophia Baron’s Annie is at turns clever and beseeching as she yearns for a home and to ultimately escape Miss Hannigan. She sings “Tomorrow” with an innocent hopefulness for things to come that tugs on audience heartstrings. Miss Hannigan is both humorous and cunning in Leah Campbell’s hands. Campbell makes her presence felt from the first scene to the last adding touches of bitterness and scorn to her take on the character. Additional performance highlights include Sarah Kalafos’s slick and crafty portrayal of Miss Hannigan’s brother, Rooster, and Rebecca White as the gruff Oliver Warbucks.

The true standout of the night was the musical performances from the entire cast. The players take on the singing and choreography with an eagerness that is infectious to audiences as they move through varying levels of complex choreography in numbers like “Hard Knock Life” while hitting their musical marks. Assistant director and choreographer Sharon Simon has made full use of the young actor’s enthusiasm and dedication, resulting in a successful execution of each number that can hold its own against more seasoned productions.

What makes “Annie Jr.” come together so well is not only the young fresh faces of the cast but also having someone at the helm who knows how to motivate and make full use of the young drama club’s potential. This is achieved through the direction of Joe Thompson, a North County High School teacher and actor whose background includes work with the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis and the Colonial Players.

“Annie Jr.” is a treat on a number of levels. The production not only offers family entertainment but additionally nurtures the creative potential of its young players.

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