Children’s Theatre ‘Annie’ to warm hearts in Dover

From left, Emily Peppard as President Roosevelt, Nate Barish as Dog Catcher, Emily DeMarie as Annie, Gracie Tuxward as Grace, and Anthony Quinene as Daddy Warbucks. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Everyone’s favorite orphan “Annie” comes to the Schwartz Center of the Arts this weekend, courtesy of the Children’s Theatre.

“I’ve had some pretty big roles but never one as well known as this one,” said Emily DeMarie, who plays the title character. “We’re doing the original Broadway version so it’s a little different than the movies but I’ve taken some inspiration from the movies.”

“We chose ‘Annie’ because it’s a good story with good characters and great music,” said Sharon Crossen, director of the show.

Just like the movie and stage versions, the story begins with Annie living in an orphanage for girls run by the mean-spirited, alcoholic Miss Hannigan.

When the billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, invites an orphan to spend the holidays at his mansion, Grace, his secretary, selects Annie. When Warbucks fails to find Annie’s parents, he decides to adopt her.

From left, Jude Quinene as Assistant Butler. Clare Qui, Avery Young and Alexia Nadel as maids, Evie Snyder as Cecille, Hadley Lewicki as Annette, Michaela Spangler as Mrs. Greer and Landon Lewicki as Drake. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Is then when the evil Miss Hannigan, her ex-con brother, Rooster, and his ditzy girlfriend conspire to get the $50,000 reward from Daddy Warbucks

“It’s amazing how fast our scenes came together but we’ve all seen the movies so we knew the songs and when it’s a fun scene like ours, it’s easier to get good at it,” said Lily Truitt, 8, portraying the orphan Molly.

The orphans in the show range from ages 8 to 12 and their on-stage supervisor, Alexandra Cseke, 15, aka Miss Hannigan, loves giving them a hard time.

The banter goes both ways, with the orphans loving to annoy her.

“As the orphans, we get to be loud and annoying which is a lot of fun and I have a lot of experience because I have sister I love to annoy. So it really comes naturally to me,” said Abby Peppard, 9.

“I love this part because I almost always play the good guy so it’s fun to be a mean dark character every once in a while,” Alexandra said.

She embraces the over the top personality of Miss Hannigan and says the singing is her favorite part.

“I started singing when I was really young and that’s what got me into acting and now I try to get involved in everything musical theater,” she said.

Aside from taking center stage, one of Emily’s favorite parts of the production is singing the song “Tomorrow” alongside canine Sandy, after she sneaks out of the orphanage. Sandy is played by a golden doodle named Finley, who follows commands based on who’s handing out Pepperidge Farm Goldfish on stage.

“Even though ‘Hard Knock Life’ is probably the most famous song from the musical, I think ‘Tomorrow’ is my personal favorite,” Emily said.

And during the Dover St. Patrick’s Day parade, the cast performed the song and the crowd and judges loved it.

From left, Lillian Mandalas as July, Puiyee Kong as Kate, Jenna Clendaniel as Orphan 7, Lily Truitt as Molly, Emily DeMarir as Annie and Alexandra Cseke as Miss Hannigan. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We noticed along the parade route, was that so many in the crowd were singing along with us. ‘Annie’ was a hit with the judges, too, since we were awarded the Judge’s Favorite trophy,” Mrs. Crossen said.

Thirteen-year-old Emily Peppard is taking on a role unlike any she’s done before – she’s playing a man. But not any man, she’s playing President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“It’s not that different than playing a female role because you’re always becoming someone different when you act but this time I’m wearing a suit instead of a dress,” she said. “I love history and I have always wanted to play a character based off a real person so I’m really excited about this role.”

For the second time since its official closing in June of 2017, The Children’s Theatre is performing at the Schwartz Center in downtown Dover, running every aspect of the show on its own.

“From box office to cleaning, to ushering, to getting lighting and sound professionals, we take on all responsibilities. Prior to this, we had to worry about the performances, costumes, makeup, transferring our sets, stage managing, and striking our sets. We do it all now, but it adds to our responsibilities, so it’s all hands on deck. We love having our kids performing there, so it’s worth the effort,” Ms. Crossen said.

The set for the show was a task on its own — more elaborate than any set in years. It was built from scratch by some dedicated dads and includes two staircases and an entire room of bunk beds.

“Annie” will be performed Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Schwartz Center, 226 S. State St. in Dover. A showing for schools will take place on Monday and has already been sold out.

All seats are $10. Visit www.thechildrenstheatre.org to purchase tickets through the Eventbrite link.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

From left, Lillian Mandalas as July, Puiyee Kong as Kate and Cassiday Okonewski as Hooverville 4 (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

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