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Youtheatre ends ’07-’08 season with Annie Jr

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Annie is one of the most popular and beloved musicals of all time. And why not? You’ve got a tough but cute and spirited orphan, a bald no-nonsense capitalist named Daddy Warbucks, and at least two songs that are darn near impossible to forget, one of which — “Tomorrow” — ranks up there with “It’s A Small World” in the “hear-it-once-and-it’s-with-you-forever-like-it-or-not” category.

Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s take on the play, Annie, Jr., a slightly trimmed down version of the story, debuts April 19.

Eight-year-old Gretta Hambrook has the lead role. Talking about the character Annie usually means hauling out all the synonyms you know for “plucky,” and in all seriousness Hambrook must share some of the adventurousness of the girl she plays on stage. This is not only her first Youtheatre production, this is the first time Hambrook has ever been on stage before. A long time fan of the story and the songs, she heard about the auditions and had to try out. She’s never acted, let alone had to sing and dance in front of a crowd. Many of her co-stars are not only older, but they have a fair amount of stage experience under their belts. But true to her character, Hambrook seems to take it in stride.
“Are you nervous about getting on stage?”
“All those lines?”
“Singing and dancing?”
“No, I’m fine.”

Hambrook’s favorite scene is the one at the beginning in the orphanage, where the orphans all sing that other song everyone remembers from that play. “It’s a great scene,” Hambrook says. “I get to be with all the orphans, which is fun, because there’s all these kids here and we get to sing ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’ and dance and use all these fun props.”

Andrew Sherman plays chrome-domed billionaire Daddy Warbucks, an extremely powerful businessman and die-hard Republican who nevertheless shares the ear of President Franklin Roosevelt (when the Roosevelts accept an insincere invitation to Christmas dinner, he instructs his assistant Grace to “find out what Democrats eat”). Sherman, who last was on stage at Youtheatre in High School Musical, says he’s enjoying the role of a tough guy. But really, Oliver Warbucks isn’t as tough as he’s made out to be. “No, he’s not such a tough guy,” Sherman says. “He has a gentle side, which he shows to Annie. He wants Annie to like him.”

Sherman says that Warbucks initially tells Grace to “find him an orphan” for Christmas as sort of a P.R. stunt, but gradually grows to love and admire Annie. That growth is what Sherman likes best about playing the character. His favorite scenes are the initial meeting with Annie (Sherman towers over his co-star) and the scene where he tells Annie he wants to adopt her, and she refuses, believing her parents are still alive, and Warbucks pledges to find her parents, enlisting the help of the president to do so (FDR is played by Chandler Chastain, who does triple duty for Annie — he also plays Lt. Ward and radio announcer Bert Healy). “I think Warbucks has the most fun dealing with Annie’s changing moods,” Sherman says.

He also gets to go bald. “That’ll be interesting,” he laughs. “I said I wasn’t going to shave my head for the role, but I’ll definitely be wearing something up there.”

Grace Farrell, Warbuck’s girl Friday, is played by Lauren Palmer, a student at Carroll and another High School Musical alumnus (she was the evil Sharpay). Palmer says Grace is the one who picks out Annie at the orphanage and becomes her guide in the new world of ridiculous wealth Annie finds herself in. “I think Grace really adores Annie,” she says. “And I’m not sure, but I believe Annie looks up to Grace, too.”

Annie Jr. is the final production of Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s 2007-2008 season, and sends the year out on a high note. “Annie Jr. all these great songs and characters,” Gretta Hambrook says. “It’s just a fun play.”

Fort Wayne Youtheatre presents Annie, Jr.
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Saturday, April 19 and Sunday April 20, at 2:00pm – Arts United Center
Tickets: $12.00 – adults and students; $8.00
Box Office opens Monday, April 14, noon – 4 pm. (260) 422-4226

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