“Every cast member was required to come up with a backstory for their characters,” says Tonja Rainey, the company’s artistic director. “It doesn’t matter if they’re one of the New Yorkers (chorus), they have to have a story.”
The cast will infuse their stories into the junior version of “Annie,” a Broadway favorite since 1977, which opens Friday.
“Some of the kids have created their backstories together,” Rainey says. “Some groups are friends, but other groups don’t really like each other because of a story they’ve created. It’s really added a lot to the play.”
Called a junior musical because it’s designed for children with performances pared down to about 60 minutes, the “Annie” story remains the same. She’s still the Depression-era orphan with a dog named Sandy, which will be played by a real dog in this production, and she’s adopted by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks.
She also has to overcome a few obstacles along the way, including the orphanage matron Miss Hannigan.
Thirteen-year-old Chloe Arnold is playing Annie.
“This is a dream role for me,” she said, standing next to 16-year-old Emery Foster, who plays Annie’s nemesis, Miss Hannigan.
“I’m having a lot of fun playing the bad guy,” Foster said. “And what’s even more fun is that my best friend was cast as Lily.”
Another of the play’s bad guys, Lily is being played by Ally Holloway. She’s girlfriend to Miss Hannigan’s con-artist brother, Rooster, played by Grayson Barraco.
Annie escapes the orphanage and is rescued by Warbucks. Rooster and Lily pose as Annie’s parents so they can collect a $10,000 reward offered by Warbucks, all the while singing about how Annie will land them on “Easy Street.”
Christy MacKenzie is directing the 75-member cast.
“I look for potential,” she says. “If a child has the potential to grow in a role, that’s what I want, and the kids here all have potential.”