Summit High School students bring ‘Annie’ to the stage
November 16, 2012
While tomorrow may be only a day away, the Summit High School production of the musical “Annie” starts tonight at 7.
The play is the first of the year for the high school students, who have been involved in rehearsals for nearly two months. The cast features 20 actors, 10 students on the tech crew, as well as a full pit band. In total, the play involves approximately 50 students and seven adults.
At the dress rehearsal Wednesday, among the chaos of costumes, moving sets, sound checks and shouted stage directions, emotions were running high – particularly excitement.
“It’s really exciting,” said freshman Selah Krueger, who landed the lead role of Annie. Krueger has acted before, in both plays and musicals with the Backstage Theatre. This will be her first role in a high school production.
“She’s really, really cheerful. She’s a little spitfire,” Krueger said of Annie’s character. “It’s going to be really fun, and it’s going to be a great show.”
Senior Christina Middlebrook is looking forward to her role as the villainous orphanage director Miss Hannigan. She is a fan of the 1982 movie version of the play.
“That was my inspiration to audition for the role of Miss Hannigan,” Middlebrook said. “Carol Burnett is one of my favorite actresses.”
Middlebrook has been involved with plays at the high chool before, but beneath the stage rather than on it. She has played clarinet, alto saxophone and flute in the pit band, and is looking forward to a new perspective.
“It’s my senior year, and I’m really looking forward to having the ability to get up on stage,” she said.
Sam Piehl, also a senior, got a taste of the stage last year in the school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Now he’s taking on a larger role, that of Mr. Warbucks. Piehl’s inspiration comes from the 1999 movie version, he says.
“I’m pulling kind of a softer father figure,” Piehl said. “He’s a very harsh figure in the beginning that melts, because Annie melts his heart.”
“Annie” is the 25th production for Cathie Hill, who has been teaching choir and drama at the high school for 13 years. At the rehearsal, Hill could be found with a large notebook, furiously scribbling notes as the students practiced their scenes.
“It’s super rewarding to take something from a book state and bring it to life. I really like that process,” Hill said.
Choosing which play or musical to perform is a process that requires consideration. Hill says she tries to keep the options diverse in order to ensure the students have a greater understanding of theater when they graduate. She also works to give the audience varied experiences, with traditional, child-friendly (like “Annie”), edgy (like “Little Shop of Horrors”) and youth-oriented (like “Grease” and “Footloose”), among others.
“One of the reasons I chose [“Annie”] is because there are parallels between the Depression years and what’s going on now,” said Hill. In the play, Annie visits a shanty town, called a Hooverville, and various references are made to the public falling on hard times. “It just spoke to me because of that.”
The cast has already been around to the elementary schools, performing previews for the students. Several tickets have already been given away in trivia and coloring contests. The students have no opening budget for their plays, and rely on ticket sales to defray the costs of the play, which include rights, royalties, rentals, costumes, set design, lighting and choreography.
“It’s a wonderful project, and it’s rewarding to see it on stage,” said Piper Mitchell, a volunteer who acted under Hill 10 years ago in a production of “Hello Dolly” as a Summit High School student. “It’s going to be a great show. We’ve got so many people who are so committed to it; it’s just going to be awesome. I mean, everybody loves ‘Annie.'”