By Amalia P. Spagnolo
A line from the popular musical proudly proclaims, “We’ve got Annie.” Now, Nashwauk-Keewatin High School can also claim the world’s best known, plucky redheaded girl as one of their own. “Annie” visits Nashwauk-Keewatin students this week, bringing her indomitable spirit and her hopeful enthusiasm for life’s many adventures.
Nashwauk-Keewatin High School (NKHS) Music Appreciation and Drama present their one-night-only performance of the musical at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 23 in the NKHS large gym. The production is directed by music teacher Laura Goucher. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” the original Broadway production opened in 1977. “Annie” (music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan) won the Tony Award for Best Musical that year.
“Annie” is set in 1933 New York City. Eleven-year-old Annie — a red-haired, resilient optimist — resides at the Municipal Girls Orphanage on the city’s Lower East Side. She and her fellow orphans are in the “care” of the rather bitter and quite perma-pickled Miss Hannigan.
NKHS freshman Sommer Hayden — who plays Haley — represents the enthusiasm and energy that only a first-year student can bring to novel high school experiences.
“It’s actually really fun,” she said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to be (in) because I like singing and dancing.”
Sophomore Kayla Porterfield portrays Annie, the orphans’ de-facto leader and inspiration. It’s her first role in any play.
“It’s very nerve-wracking and stressful, (but) I absolutely love working with the other people around the play,” she said. “All of us are so different, yet so alike in our personalities that we get along with each other pretty well. We have a lot of fun and keep each other on track.”
She acknowledged that she has much to memorize, but “it’ll turn out great.” Though she and the irrepressible redhead are different in age and hair, she noted they are “both childish and like to take charge and take care of things.” Their similarities make it easier for her to get into character, she said. Where the girls differ in how they would react in certain situations, Porterfield heeds the instruction of her teacher. “Ms. Goucher told me to imagine something in my own life to interpret how Annie is feeling,” she explained. “And it definitely helps me a lot.”
Goucher described how “Annie” fits into NKHS’ Music Appreciation/Drama classes.
“I started the program when I first came here four years ago,” she said. A 17-year classroom veteran, Goucher has taught music and produced musical plays. She noted of this year’s class, “We have 31 students, five of whom are seniors. Everybody is in the show, though not everyone has a speaking part. Everybody is also on a crew — whether it be set, costume or props — because we have five main scenes and a lot of props and costuming for them.”
Goucher’s students multi-task on stage and behind-the-scenes. Besides acting, dancing and singing “live” to a recorded score, they prepare stage props and build sets. Even the show’s choreography is created by students.
“Because I had mostly girls in a class of mainly freshmen and sophomores, I picked ‘Annie’ for us to do. There’s only five boys. So, many of the guys are doubling up” on male roles, she said.
One of the young men doing double and even triple-duty is Noah Vincent (class of 2016). In his second NK play, he plays police officer Lt. Ward, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the radio announcer Bert Healy. With each student performing more than one job, Vincent observed, “Everyone is really stepping up, so it’s working really well for us. It’s going good. Everyone is willing to be outgoing in a room full of people who support you.”
Senior Luke Kingsbury plays “Daddy” Warbucks.
“I’ve done about 15 other shows growing up around here, including plays at Hibbing Community College,” he said. The stage figures prominently into Kingsbury’s post-secondary education plans. “Next year, I’m going to the University of Iowa for a theater major,” he said. “This will help me get ready for that and get more experience to do this for the rest of my life.”
Sophomore and stage veteran Taishon Hallmark (who plays Rooster Hannigan) said, “It’s been time-consuming and quite an experience, but it’s fun,” adding, “It’s all great people who work well together—we’re like a second family when we’re doing this.” Summing up how it feels, Hallmark said, “It gives me this sense of freedom that you can’t really get (with anything else). I can’t explain it. It’s just happiness.”
Admission is $5 per person and free for children four-years-old and younger. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Concessions of water, popcorn and candy will be available for sale.