Director Bob Trisolini knows the show business adage about how adults should never work on stage with kids and animals. He’s working with both on “Annie” at the Players Theatre.
“I’ve done a lot of shows with kids,” including “The Sound of Music,” “Seussical” and “Oliver,” he said. “I do enjoy working with kids, and I have a great group for this show.”
More than 120 little girls auditioned to play the title role and her friends in an orphanage run by the wicked Miss Hannigan in Depression-era New York. Trisolini doubled the usual number of orphans to 14 and made half of them understudies to the regular roles. “They’ll each have a chance to perform the roles,” he said.
Hannah Beatt, an 11-year-old, got the coveted title role and will be singing the anthem “Tomorrow.” “She’s like a little Ethel Merman,” he said. “She really goes for it.”
Based on the long-running comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” the musical follows Annie’s efforts to find the parents who left her at the orphanage and how her life is changed when she’s invited to spend Christmas with the billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks.
The musical, set during the Great Depression, originally opened on Broadway in 1977, at a time when the American economy was floundering. “And it’s still current, with everything going on in the country, nothing has really changed," Trisolini said. "We’re steal dealing with homelessness and social issues and we’re facing that old fiscal cliff.”
It features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and a book by Thomas Meehan.
Beatt shares the stage with Players Theatre newcomer Jgar Hellwig as Warbucks, Shelley Whiteside as his devoted assistant Grace Farrell, Terri Solomon as Miss Hannigan, Scott Vitale as Rooster and Chip Fisher as radio host Bert Healy. The orphans are played by Eva Bayer, Kaity Cairo, Samantha Crawford, Emma Diner, Sarah Johnson, Amanda Lade, Lily Mancini, Jillian Park, Alanna Rife, Grace Roe, Lilly Mae Stewart and Claudia Young.”
Trisolini said he’s staging a fairly traditional production with a few twists. “We’re using projections as well as a regular set, which gives it a little bit of a different look.” He’s also playing with the relationships a bit to better suit his cast.
The production features sets by Michael A. Gray, lighting by David M. Upton and musical direction by Bobby Brader.
It opens just a few weeks after a new revival of the show opened on Broadway.