Theatre Victoria 'Annie' production brings art to the community
July 19, 2012 at 2:19 a.m.
Updated July 20, 2012 at 2:20 a.m.
Elliett Hanes transformed into character as she walked through the theater stage doors.
With a newly red-colored mane, the 11-year-old Nazareth Academy student became the 11-year-old Orphan Annie.
Elliett has waited for months for the maroon, velvet curtain to open. It was time for the budding star to shine.
"I like it a lot because it's what I do best," she said about her acting career.
Elliett nabbed the leading role as the play's protagonist for the Theatre Victoria production of the musical "Annie," which begins its two-weekend run Friday.
The adventurous, yet lovable New York City orphan yearns to be reunited with her parents. Annie clings to her locket and letter to hold on to hope. Life takes her on a whirlwind in her quest.
To get the tunes just right for the musical, the 55-member cast began rehearsing June 10 for three and a half hours at a time, five days a week. It's become the performers' second home, they said.
Scott Mohon, theater executive director, brought a sense of community inclusion to the Tony Award-winning musical. He worked with the Dorothy O'Connor Pet Adoption Center to bring live animals to the stage.
"Charlie," who has become the shelter's mascot, will play Annie's canine sidekick, Sandy.
The 10-year-old beagle/Australian shepherd mix immediately showed his affinity toward Elliett by wagging his tail.
The feelings were mutual.
"It's been great. I've never been around dogs that actually liked me," she said.
He was nicknamed Two -take Charlie because he responds well to direction, she said.
"Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks," Mohon said jokingly.
He added that live animals add another element of surprise, which is part of the joy of live theater.
In addition to bringing the shelter dog on stage, Mohon brought community organizations to the theater to serve as the audience for the final dress rehearsal.
This year's beneficiaries include Mid-Coast Family Services campers, Devereaux Foundation students, Perpetual Help Home, Salem Village Apartments and Brownson Home residents, as well as home-schooled children with attention deficit disorder.
Barbara Strelczyk, Brownson's Home administrative assistant, said the kids from the basic care facility enjoy going to the theater.
"They get all dressed up and get some exposure to the arts."
Mohon said the exchange is mutually beneficial because performers learn first-hand about pace and timing.
"We like to give back to them because they give to us," he said.
First-time performer Mark Kurtz related his experience on the athletic fields to being on the stage.
"When it all comes down to it, you have to perform," he said.
The 49-year-old mechanical engineer will play President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other small roles.
Kurtz said he was surprised by how much work went into a stage performance and praised the unsung heroes behind the scenes.
"They're making us look good and we have to make them look good," he said.
Kurtz's wife, Jill Kurtz, who has 20 years of acting experience, has been by his side.
"I thought he would be bad, but he was pretty good," she said jokingly.
Jill Kurtz terrorized the children at the orphanage as the villain, Miss Hannigan.
The couple got involved in the summer production with their children, Sammy Kurtz, 5, and Katie Kurtz, 4, who will be extras in the show.
Jill Kurtz said the commitment is a challenge well worth it.
"One day, we're going to look back and say it's the best summer we ever had," she said.
Elliett, who admitted to being nervous and excited, flexed her musical muscles as the optimistic orphan. Her tiny vocal chords created a pure sound that could be heard throughout the theater.
Although she spent hours preparing and going over lines with her mother, Carla Hanes, she acknowledged everyone's commitment to give Victoria the show they deserve.
"We've worked so hard to make this good. Everyone should come see it," she said.