By LISA LASKEY, Regional staff
When the curtain opened on Mill Creek High School’s “Annie” March 15, audiences were taken directly into the spunky orphan’s world through rollicking musical numbers, sassy one-liners and a bounding golden-fluffed pup named Sandy.
“The Mill Creek Theatre Department always does a great job with all of their plays,” said mom to student actor Leah Johnson, a junior, who played Mrs. Pugh in the musical. Johnson managed concessions, and had the opportunity to see the various audience reactions to each performance. “What an amazing and fantastic director Ms. (Katherine) Alexander is. The cast and crew put together an unforgettable performance that made me laugh and cry,” she said.
Behind each approximate two hours that this cast was exuberantly onstage, were months and months spent in preparation. Cast members rehearsed 3-5 days a week, and nearing performance deadline, could be found at the school from 6:30 in the morning until, often, 10 p.m. Parent and volunteers as well.
Unbeknownst to these teens was one multi-show audience member who is highly-acclaimed in his own right.
“I am not an actor, but I was in front of TV cameras for more than 35-years in the Atlanta market doing a lot of TV weather – primarily at Channel 2 and The Weather Channel; plus years of corporate spokesman videos, industrial instruction and commercials,” said John Doyle. “My voice work continues today. So, while I don’t sing or dance, I can readily speak to performance and the constant goal of excellence,” he said.
Doyle gave glowing reviews to the young actors.
“I’m not officially an “Annie Family,” but I’ve lived next door to one since 2002. Since then, I’ve known Trish and Kirt Wightman, son Eric (Oliver Warbucks) and Mary Kate (Denizen) since she was 6 years old. I’ve seen her talents explode in the past few years, and I think she does an exceptional job in this, her first stage production. So, she’s definitely my favorite.
“For sheer professionalism, Bianca Robinson (Miss Hannigan) steals the show.” And, that she did, as audience members’ laughed responded to her every bob and weave while she sipped her “water” and swatted orphans. Never did they know that, during one performance, Robinson injured one of her hands, immediately, before going onstage. Robinson’s performance remain completely unmarred said the other actors. It was only upon exit that she dissolved into tears.
“For versatility and comedic range, I vote for Jon Jameson (Rooster) and Amanda Merry (Lily). The stage lights up when they are on together, clowning or dancing… add Bianca to the numbers, and you’ve got a sensational trio.
“Truly unsung, but pro-level performances were given by several members of the “Denizens” and the two ballerinas,” Doyle continued. “Exceptional members of the chorus, as well as the classically trained dancers were “in the moment” every moment they were on stage.”
Doyle’s additional comments were unanimously expressed by parents and volunteers whose own hours backstage were moderate when compared to the directorial team.
“I don’t know how Katherine, Stephanie and Becca were able to bring such a high level of musical comedy and accomplishment to high school theater,” said Doyle. “I credit their collective tremendous skill and patience, and being blessed with some exceedingly talented students.”
Theater Booster Club President Dana Wrightman, who flinched as her son Eric revealed his Daddy Warbuck’s clean-shaven head, “I’m really thrilled at the kids that are coming up. This is what they love.”
Annie at Mill Creek
Amanda Merry (Lily) and Grace Hubbard (Annie) accept bouquets from well-wishers after the debut performance of Annie at Mill Creek High School March 15. [img src=http://clickthepaper2.com/wp-content/flagallery/annie-at-mill-creek/thumbs/thumbs_annie-guy.gif]320
Erik Burleson (Daddy Warbucks) shaved his head for his role as a billionaire with a soft spot for little orphan Annie. [img src=http://clickthepaper2.com/wp-content/flagallery/annie-at-mill-creek/thumbs/thumbs_annie-john.gif]290
John Doyle enjoyed the production and shared comments. [img src=http://clickthepaper2.com/wp-content/flagallery/annie-at-mill-creek/thumbs/thumbs_annie-performs.gif]350
The entire cast danced, and sang, keeping the audience engaged for the 2-plus hour performance.