Lakewood Center for the Performing Arts will host a stage full of musical comedy's most beloved orphans for five performances of Annie Jr. On Jan. 11 through 13, more than two dozen of Furman Middle School's talented actors, singers and dancers will present the seven Tony award-winning show set in Depression-era New York City.
Directed by Linda Beck, Annie Jr.'s cast comprises FMS choir members, REACH students and others. REACH is Sumter School District's summer program for gifted and talented students.
Beck said the cast is very excited about the show with "Lots of energy and so much talent!"
In the lead roles of Annie, Daddy Warbucks and Miss Hannigan are Haley Franks, Quinn Welsh and Rachel Parker. Both Franks and Parker have acted in previous Furman musicals, and Welsh recently auditioned for the national TV show "America's Got Talent." All three are in the FMS show choir.
As the show opens, Annie is with six other young girls - Molly, Kate, Tessie, Pepper, July and Duffy - in The New York City Municipal Orphanage. The six orphans are played by Haley Smalls, Payton Sestokas, Mia Margliano, Alyssa Costas, Zoe Ricklin and Marissa Dorr.
All Annie knows of her life before she was left on the orphanage steps is contained in a note her parents left, promising to come back for her. Miss Hannigan, the orphanage supervisor, who has no love for the orphans, orders them to scrub the floors, prompting them to sing one of the show's signature songs, "It's a Hard Knock Life."
Perhaps the show's most recognized tune, "Tomorrow," is sung by Annie to Sandy, a stray dog she rescues. Sandy is played by Ginger Costas.
Annie herself is "rescued" by the billionaire Daddy Warbucks, prompting Miss Hannigan's brother Rooster (Quinden Dais) and his girlfriend Lily (Brelen Livingston) to impersonate Annie's parents in order to swindle money from Warbucks.
Beck had high praise for her cast: "Rachel has done an exceptional job - Hannigan is very funny. She has been watching Carol Burnett, who was Hannigan in the original Broadway show. The orphans are doing a great job hating Miss Hannigan.
"Haley has a wonderful voice and couldn't have been a better choice for Annie. Quinn plays a really good Warbucks as dog catcher, also doing sound effects, Manuel Sanchez-Ruiz gives 300 percent and J'Shawn Stukes plays several roles and is a wonderful talent."
Several show choir members and students Beck said she wants for FMS' 2018-19 show choir also play various roles in Annie Jr. Landon Rivers plays Franklin Roosevelt, Vincent DeGrazio plays Bundles McCloskey and Louis Howe, Quinten Dais is Apple Seller, Neveah Keller is Warbucks' assistant Grace Keller, Brayden Mainey is Drake, Elisa Thompson is Cecille, Hailey Collins is Annette, Shadijiah Burgess is Mrs. Greer, Alalia Hill is Mrs. Pugh, Rachel James is a Star to Be and Aubrey Lane is Usherette.
Community members Sylvia Pickell and David Shoemaker lend their professional touches to the show, Beck noted. Pickell is longtime costume designer and wardrobe mistress for Sumter Little Theatre, and has done the costumes for Annie Jr. Shoemaker, also an SLT member as musician, set and light designer, has designed the set and lights for Annie.
Sumter School District curriculum coach Bill Austin designed the posters and programs.