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Evergreen Players' production of 'Annie' shines

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By Sara Miller

The sun will come up on the Evergreen Players when the curtain opens at the latest production of "Annie," July 11 through Aug. 3. Families will enjoy sharing their memories of this beloved musical, as well as making new memories together when they follow the popular comic-strip heroine Little Orphan Annie and her dog Sandy on their adventures from Miss Hannigan's orphanage into the heart of Daddy Warbucks.

"Annie" is a Broadway musical based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip "Little Orphan Annie." The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, winning several Tony Awards. Columbia Pictures released a film in 1982 starring acting greats Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters. Although the movie did not feature any of the musical’s well-known songs except for a reprise of "Tomorrow," the story of Annie became famous the world over.

"Annie" tells the extraordinary story of a little orphan (played by Devon Riddle) who ends up in the lap of luxury with Depression-era billionaire Oliver Warbucks (played by Ken Paul). Unlike most of the other children at Miss Hannigan's (played by Melissa Marilyn Hadden) orphanage, spunky Annie believes her parents are still alive and will one day return to claim her. When Mr. Warbucks offers to adopt her, she asks the most powerful man in America to help find her real mom and dad instead, and he agrees. Warbucks' whopping reward for Annie's parents attracts the attention of con artists Rooster (played by John Mackey), Lily (played by Melissa Flaugh) and the wicked Miss Hannigan, who hatch a plot to kidnap Annie and take the $50,000 reward. The orphans and the whole gang launch a plan to save Annie and give her a happy ending.

In addition to its most famous number, "Tomorrow," Annie is also known for the orphans' rallying cry, "Hard-Knock Life."  This song gives the actors a chance to show off the distinct personalities of their characters. 

The Players' production has six actors who are no strangers to the stage playing the orphans. Annie is played by Devon Riddle, whose recent professional credits include Brigitta in "The Sound of Music" and Gavroche in "Les Miserables The Concert" at Curtains Up Theatre Company. Duffy, the eldest orphan, is played by Evergreen resident Molly Desch; Tessie, the crybaby orphan, is played by Evergreen Children's Chorale member Anna Lacjak; July, the quietest orphan, is played by Paige Montgomery, whose past shows include "Carousel" and "The Sound of Music" with the Evergreen Chorale and "Nutcracker" with the Dawson Wallace Dance Project; Pepper, the bossiest orphan, is played by Sophie Orsund, who has performed with the Evergreen Children's Chorale and in productions at Evergreen Middle School; and Molly, the youngest orphan, is played by Katie Phipps, whose most recent roles were in "Grey Gardens" at Vintage Theatre and "A Christmas Carol" at the Arvada Center.

"Sometimes, as a director, you are asking the actors to bring more personality to their roles," director Michele Wright says. "All of the girls playing the orphans have distinct and funky personalities of their own. I never have to ask them to give me more personality, because they bring everything they've got every night."

The Players have also recruited a veteran actor to play the role of Sandy, Annie's trusty canine sidekick. Turbo Adams reprises his role as Sandy, having played the part at Littleton's Town Hall Arts Center in November. The show has personal meaning to Turbo because he was rescued by the group Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue and eventually found a home with Craig and Emily Adams.

"Annie is such a family show," Wright said. "Everyone that I talk to has some personal connection or great memory of the movie or the stage show. I hope we can generate some more memories for families and pass on a love of theater to a new generation of 'Annie' lovers, too."

'Annie'

Presented by the Evergreen Players

July 11 through Aug. 3

Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. 

At Center/Stage Theater, 27608 Fireweed Drive in Evergreen

Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for seniors (60-plus) and students. A family four-pack (two adults and two youths) costs $60. 

Tickets are available at www.evergreenplayers.org or by calling 303-674-4934.