With a week left until the curtain goes up, actors from Windham Middle School are blocking, singing, emoting and getting ready to perform Annie Jr. under the direction of Mary Wassick. Wassick has been directing Windham Middle School plays for seven years and she is just as proud of her actors this year as she has been every year she directs.
“All of them are stars,” she said. “Watching students perform is kind of magical. Are they perfect and polished perfectly? Nope, but they are proud and excited to be a part of something, especially when the curtain goes up. When the curtain goes up everyone knows they are a star. No one comes to a curtain call sad.”
The play is a condensed version of the smash hit “Annie” that is well known. In this play the songs are shorter and the show is shorter, Wassick said. There’s no shortness of actors, however. There are 70 students on stage and another five or six doing tech work behind the scenes.
Wassick is helped by assistant director Anthony DeRice, choreographer Nikki Taiani and producer Angela Cyr.
The actors chose the show they wanted to perform, Wassick said. “It’s timeless and classic and they know all the songs. It’s also female heavy, so it’s a great fit for us.”
The cast held auditions in October and started rehearsals in November. The cast had the Christmas break free from rehearsals and have been hit by a few snow days that have hindered their practice times. “It’s an awful lot of work. We’ve become accustomed to it,” said Wassick. The play will only have three performances, Friday night, January 23 at 7 p.m., Saturday, January 24 at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.
We wouldn’t be able to do this without parents, at least 30 of them this year, helping backstage with costuming, sets and food, said Wassick.
The principle actors are: Sixth grader Denali Dieumegard plays Annie and her voice is amazing for one so young.
“I cry every time she opens her mouth,” said Wassick.
Miss Hannigan is played by Makayla Malloy. In the movie Miss Hannigan has a drinking problem, but in this play she’s not a drinker. “She’s mean, haggy and ugly and doesn’t know how to use makeup,” said Wassick.
Other principle actors are Davin Farinella as “Daddy” Oliver Warbucks. Annie Stevens as Grace, Austin Norcia as Rooster and Cordelia Inman as Lily St. Regis.
Studies have shown that fortune 500 companies like to hire theater kids because they “perform under pressure, make quick decisions and act on them and speak well in front of people,” said Wassick. For all of those reasons, being in a production is important to the growth of students. This also includes the backstage crew. They are all working as part of a team, said Wassick.
Tickets are on sale at the door. Adults are $10, seniors, students and WMS staff with school ID are only $5. The show is at the Windham High School Performing Arts Center, 406 Gray Road.