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'Annie' Set to Take the Stage at The State

by and on February 04, 2014 3:45 PM

Everyone's favorite red-haired orphan will visit the State Theatre Feb. 6-9 when FUSE Productions presents the Charles Strouse musical Annie.

Under the direction of Richard Biever and featuring choreography by Jill Brighton, the show introduces local audiences to New York professional Todd Thurston. The Equity actor will play the role of Oliver (Daddy) Warbucks.

"It's a role I've wanted for a long time," Thurston says, "and since the character is in his late 30s, I'm glad I can get away with it before I age out of it."

A cast of talented locals join Thurston, including 11-year-old Keri Rose Carroll in the title role. We last saw Carroll as a street urchin in Scrooge: The Musical. Her enthusiasm for performing comes through in the Annie role. She says she loves the feeling of having a lead role.

"Annie's always optimistic and she never gives up," Carroll says, "she's very brave."

The show draws inspiration from the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie that debuted in the 1920s. And the comic drew inspiration from an 1885 poem, Little Orphan Allie, by the 'Hoosier Poet,' James Whitcomb Riley. A typesetting error renamed the piece to its current name.

Writing in 19th century Midwest vernacular, Riley based the character on a real person, a distant relative named Mary Alice. The orphaned teenager stayed with young Riley's family, doing household chores and entertaining the children with stories of 'The gobble-uns 'at gits you ef you don't watch out!'

The musical, set during the Great Depression, introduces the Annie character at her home in an orphanage. A series of adventures (and misadventures) leads to Annie spending the Christmas holiday at the mansion home of billionaire Warbucks. She and Warbucks begin a mission to locate Annie's parents, which involves a radio show, reward money, a couple of fraudulent gold-diggers and, eventually, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Veteran State College actor Frank Wilson plays Roosevelt. Wilson, one of the area's finest character actors, brings an authenticity to the role that rounds out a fine performance by an exceptionally gifted cast.

Although painstaking in musical details, Biever gives vocalists opportunities to explore the phrases they sing. The results sound natural when the solos, duets and choruses alter to fit the mood of each song.

"Richard is a wonderful director," Thurston observes, "and I'm impressed with the performers' qualities too."

The score includes the hit song 'Tomorrow,' and the timeless phrase, 'leapin' lizards!' And adding the final touch to the production, a yellow canine named Dylan plays homeless dog Sandy.

But according to Carroll, the Annie character has some serious life lessons for all of us: "You should never give up," she says, "and you should always stay positive, even through the tough times."


What: "Annie"

Where: State Theatre, State College

When: Feb. 6-9, various times

Click HERE for more information or to buy tickets.

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Ann is an Arts and Entertainment correspondent for the Gazette.
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