Monday, September 15, 2014

Annie Jr.

This past weekend "Annie Jr." opened at the Chanticleer Community Theater. 
The first scene is set in a New York City orphanage during The Great Depression with many girls and few beds.  When one young girl is having a nightmare, she is comforted by an older girl, Annie whose parents left her there years ago.   Annie realizes that she is not likely to be adopted.   She realizes that life is difficult on the streets, but knows that she will never find her parents unless she looks for them.  She decides to run away.
Annie is portrayed by eleven-year-old Natalie Simons who possesses a strong stage presence as a leading actress with a confident voice singing her way into the hearts of the audience throughout the musical.   This opening act sets the tone for the entire show with the other eleven young actresses acting, singing, and masterfully dancing while delighting the audience.   These talented roommates are Gracie Clark, Zoey Dittmer, Ryan Doner, Kyrstin Holmes, Olivia Kisicki, Maddy Koch, Alicia Leinen. Violet Lotenschtein, Carson Santee, Mackenzie Storey and Ella Walker.
Considering that the entire cast is between the ages of eight and eighteen, the Chanticleer Theater has excelled with training these young stars of the future and uniting their talents in this show.
Other outstanding performers were Zach Schnitker as Daddy Warbucks, Audrey Schnitker as the Star to Be, and unquestionably Hannah Goodrich as Miss Hannigan whose singing voice is amazing.   All three proved to be excellent singers, dancers, and actors.
As Sandy, the dog, Ginger Insolera quickly won the hearts of the audience.
Overall the support crew for this production was outstanding.  With almost fifty performers and a dog on stage, it definitely had to be challenging with all the costumes, hair, make-up besides the set design and constructions, the transitions between scenes, the lighting and the sound were all outstanding. The only criticism would be the floor microphones which sometimes picked up the dance steps rather than the voices.
When Chanticleer began the Jr. musical programs a few years ago, I was skeptical about these shortened versions losing their story line and of course, my favorite musical selections.  Like condensed books, shortened versions sometimes lose the value of the original.  That is not true of this year's Annie Jr. 
For the Chanticleer each year, these productions have improved significantly while promoting the talented youth of our community.   Denise Putnam, Jerry Gray, Rachael Schnitker and all the production crew are phenomenal with development of evolving these children into performers with their annual Chanticleer Children's Theater Summer Workshop.  
This is a family-friendly show for everyone.   The actual production lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes for the twelve scenes.
Annie Jr. continues through this weekend with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night and at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.  Ticket costs are $ 20 for adullts, $ 16 for seniors, $ 10 for students, and season membership packages for upcoming shows are still available.  To purchase the tickets contact the box office at 712-323-9955 or
Last Friday night's performance proved the success of this program with a full house and a standing ovation and not just from family members.   Get there early to find the best parking and theater seats.
Annie Jr. is a delightful performance for everyone in the family besides having a wonderful time listening to wonderful singers, actors, and dancers with an optimistic outlook on life.

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