BAY CITY PLAYERS • Brighten the Stage with Sold Out Performances of 'ANNIE'

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 860   By: Robert E Martin

12th April, 2018     0

There is a strong argument to be made that the musical Annie is perhaps the most popular theatrical production to emerge from contemporary American theatre in the last 40 years. Based upon the popular Harold Gray comic strip, the original Broadway production opened in 1977, won a Tony Award for Best Musical, and ran for nearly six years, setting a record and spawning numerous productions in many countries.  Adding further evidence for this argument is the series of upcoming performances from April 26 – May 6th that Bay City Players have lined-up for Annie, which all sold out by March 14th.

According to Annie director Michael Wisniewski, this is the quickest sell-out in Player’s hundred-year history, which he attributes to several factors.

“This is one of the shows that sells very fast because it’s so popular,” he reflects. “There are several elements that make it popular: it has a good feeling to it and the character herself is always optimistic. She’s stuck in this orphanage and not treated well, goes to Oliver Warbucks at Christmas and finds out her parents passed away while at the orphanage, but is still optimistic. Factoring these elements in with the inherent charms of the orphans, the great music, and the funny yet poignant script, there are very meaningful moments to this production.”

Beyond the optimism of the narrative throughout Annie, which is set during the Great Depression when the entire country was dispossessed, there is a scene in the second act where Warbucks brings Annie to Washington, D.C., where she requests to meet the President. Warbucks thinks that it would be better if Annie waited outside, but Franklin D. Roosevelt asks her to stay.  She begins to sing "Tomorrow", though shushed by the cabinet. Roosevelt, however, believes that people must be optimistic during tough times, and commands them to sing the memorable song Tomorrow. Does Wisniewski feel part of the current popular appeal of Annie threads into the nature of our contemporary times? “I think it does,” he responds. “Though technically we are not in a depression right now, today our country is very divided and there is an element of optimism in this show that correlates to lifting people from the weight of what’s going on today.”

Annie is a big production for Bay City Players, with a fairly large cast of 38 members. Given this reality, Wisniewski says his biggest challenge as a Director is to keep the action going while shifting from scene-to-scene. “This show goes from the Orphange to St. Marks to Hooverville, back to the Orphanage, then to Warbucks, then to a radio station in the second act – there’s so many locations and keeping the action going to the audience isn’t getting bored can be challenging.  We’ve minimalized our sets so the changes are easy and my goal is to make this show very seamless, and keep the action moving between one scene and another. When I go to see a show sometimes they get into scene changes where the action stops and suddenly I’m taken out of the show and need to get placed back into it.  This is what I want to avoid with Annie.”

“The way Annie is written there is a very nice flow to it, which is another appeal to the show,” he continues. “The audience is taken through so many different locations where so much happens that we learn how Annie finds he happiness and gets to her place where everything is right with the world.”

Michael says auditions for Annie were strongly attended, with 122 young girls auditioning for the roles of Annie or the orphans, plus 50 adults auditioning for lead and ensemble roles. “We found a very smart young lady by the name of Anastasia Breen to play Annie and then mixed the cast with a combination of veterans and new actors, which is always good to have.  Anastasia is 12-years old and a great little performer, with a strong voice. She’s in every scene except for two and is onstage a lot; and we have a very strong group of orphans. They listen and take direction well and we have everything blocked and will start fine-tuning and running the show this week. Holly Bills is our choreographer and Music Director is James C Pawloski.”

“Larry Jacobs is playing Warbucks,” adds Michael, “and he’s been involved with Players for years. I believe the last production he was in was My Fair Lady and I’ve worked with him before. Many of his roles have been comedic and Warbucks is more of a straight role, so it’s a nice challenge for an actor to play both sides of it. We have a very strong cast that makes this production a joy to navigate.”

“Apart from our lead role, other newcomers consist of Alexis Bruner, Wisdom Dudley, Tansley Rogers and Kate Sulfridge as some of the orphans; and Michelle Loper and Kenyatta Beamon, Sharrieff Beamon, and Thad Vantifflin in some of the adult roles,” concludes Michael. “I love working with new people who don’t have the experience and are willing to learn and possess drive and work so hard at getting things right; while the veterans a good for stability.”

“People often forget that Annie is based upon a cartoon and there are both funny and poignant moments, so we’re striving to get a good balance between the reality of the show and the cartoon element, which I think we’ve achieved through our balance of costuming and scenery.”

Bay City Players production of Annie runs from April 25-28 & May 3-6th. Curtain is at 7:30 pm, except on Sundays at 3 pm. All shows are SOLD OUT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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