TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — The Truckee-Donner Recreation & Parks Department is under way with cast rehearsals and production of the Broadway musical “Annie,” which will take the stage June 8-9 at the Community Arts Theatre in Truckee.
The first task was to cast the title character “Annie.” More than 40 children showed up March 15 at the Community Arts Center to audition for a part. Show director and choreographer Courtney Simson said, “Every little girl wanted to be cast as Annie, and of course, a few were disappointed at first when they did not get the part. But now that we have been rehearsing for a month, and the kids see the neat parts they have, they are having a ball!”
The part of Annie was clinched by 10-year-old Eva Baffone, a fifth-grader at North Tahoe School.
“Eva is a joy to work with. All of her co-stars have commented on how genuinely sweet she is, not to mention talented. And everyone is impressed by her work ethic. She has already memorized most of her Act 1 lines and song lyrics, and we have six weeks to go before performances!” said Simpson.
Eva will act opposite Scout the Golden retriever, who will play the part of “Sandy.” The two will act out a pivotal scene in the play in which Annie calls Sandy to her side, and then breaks into song with the headline song of “Tomorrow.” Eva is currently training Scout using dog treats stashed in her pocket, and the dog will be taught to come to Eva when called on command and heel by her side.
Everyone gets in the act
Miss Hannigan, the cruel and intolerant orphanage director who greatly dislikes Annie and tries to sabatoge her adoption, shares several humorous scenes with Annie and her fellow orphans. Miss Hannigan will be played by actress Dawn Baffone, who is none other than Eva’s mother. The acting chemistry between the mother-daughter duo of Eva and Dawn is powerful, and at times, hilarious.
“The familiarity between the two is certainly being leveraged, especially in the scenes where Annie is being scolded by Miss Hannigan and decides to talk back and roll her eyes,” observed Simson. “It makes for great snappy dialogue and lots of laughs!”
The show would simply not go on without theatre veteran director Simson, who relocated to Truckee two years ago from Southern California. “Annie” is the fourth show with Truckee-Donner Recreation & Parks District Simson has cast, directed, produced, and choreographed.
Simson taps her 30-year career in theatre to bring “Annie” to the stage. “I love doing theater with kids. I think they learn great lessons about working with others in a play, much as they would in a team sport. It’s fun to see their excitement grow as rehearsals progress, and watching the shy ones become more confident.”
Simson believes so much in the value of the arts for kids she directed school shows for free over the years. She would teach all day, and then direct kids for another two or three hours.
“I am pleased that many of my former students, who were introduced to theater at our public school, have gone onto professional careers as actors, singers, and producers. One girl, Allie Trimm, recently starred in the Broadway musical “13,” notes Mrs. Simson.
Simson continued, “My goal is provide opportunities for people of all ages who are interested in participating in full productions of Broadway plays and musicals.”
Consequently, Simson often casts every child who auditions, and works to provide special spots for all of them in the play. For example, in “Annie,” everyone who auditioned was cast, resulting in a 73-person cast.
Of those, 41 are children, and the rest are teens and adults. Everyone was given a chance to act, sing, dance and read for the parts of their choice.
Simson is extremely grateful for the talented volunteer staff. Veterans like Susan Horst, conductor of the Truckee Tahoe Community Chorus, will be the play’s musical director and assume the lead role of “Grace Farrell.” Todd Tannis, music and drama instructor at Custom Learning Academy will be the piano rehearsal accompanist, and assume the lead role of “Daddy Warbucks.”
This team will work together to produce shows through the newly titled “T.D.R.P.D. Community Theater.”
Tickets available now
To purchase tickets for “Annie,” visit www.singttcc.org. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for kids ages 5-17, and free for kids 4 and under. The show dates are June 8, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with pre-shows at 1:20 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. The June 9 will be held at 2 p.m. with a pre-show at 1:20 p.m.
All shows will be at the Community Arts Center on Church Street in Downtown Truckee.