“Annie” Comes to Easton This Christmas

The Avalon Foundation will present the beloved Broadway Musical “Annie” as this year’s Holiday Musical. The Avalon’s Annual Holiday show has become an Eastern Shore tradition for many in the area and for some from as far away as Pennsylvania.

“We know of a group that has been coming down for seven years now from out of state,” said Tim Weigand, who directs the annual production. “We met them a few years ago and they said they have been coming for so long that they recognize a lot of the faces and have watched the kids grow from youngsters to teens. That was pretty special for us to hear.”

Most people may know “Annie” from watching the popular version of the 1982 film starring Carol Burnett (Ms. Hannigan), Albert Finny (Daddy Warbucks), Aileen Quinn (Annie) and Bernadette Peters (Lily St. Regis). Still even more know the show from Columbia Pictures fairly recent 2014 adaptation starring Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, and Cameron Diaz. But the show (based on the exceedingly popular comic strip Little Orphan Annie) became an American hit first on Broadway where it ran for nearly six years and won seven Tony Awards.

“Every year we search for a play to do at the holidays and it is always a struggle because there really are not that many holiday shows to choose from,” said Jessica Bellis, producer for the program. “We were extremely close to picking another play when Suzy Moore tossed out the idea of doing Annie.”

“Annie was not something that I had ever associated with Christmas,” said Tim. “Not being that familiar with the movie or the play, I had no idea that the play concludes on Christmas Day. When I found that out I thought that it made perfect sense. ‘Scrooge’ is about a curmudgeon and ends on Christmas Day. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is about a banker and ends on Christmas Day. ‘Annie’ is about an orphan and billionaire and ends on Christmas Day. I mean, would you rather watch a play that ends on Christmas Day in July or December?”

While the Avalon productions have been well received in the past, they have never put on a full-scale musical. There was a crucial piece missing to pull a show of this size off

“We have had music in our plays before and we have incorporated dances here and there but nothing on the scale of ‘Annie’,” said Jessica. The addition of Kimberly Stevens, who has a background in theatre and dance to the Avalon staff over a year ago helped make this year’s show possible.

“Kimberly who ran Chesapeake Children’s Theatre for five years and currently runs our Avalon Children’s Theatre (ACT) has been a wonderful addition to our staff. Not only because she is able to choreograph the show, but with her knowledge of what it takes to put a show together, she has been right in step with us the whole way,” said Jessica.

So, this Christmas, after three months of rehearsal, “Annie” will hit the stage with a cast of over 80 actors and actresses. The show features Jon Southworth as Daddy Warbucks, Katie Bernstein and Michelle Callahan as Grace, Steve Ford as FDR, Sarah Ensor as Ms. Hannigan, Craig Brittingham as Rooster and stars Gabby Mangold and Jessica Hammond as the lovable Annie. Maggii Sarfaty is in charge of set design, Alan Sleeper, set construction and Al Bond, Executive Director at The Avalon, is in charge of the technical aspects to make sure it all works onstage. Suzy Moore is in charge of sound.

The annual show has become a tradition for many and at the same time has become the foundation’s biggest fundraiser. “This is a true community affair. Members of the community put the show on and members of the community benefit directly from their efforts. All of the proceeds we raise support our year-round programming. We tell the actresses and actors that every year, but I don’t think they fully understand just how important they are to The Avalon. The finances support everything we do from free events for the town to keeping the lights on in the building,” said Jessica.

She continues, “We cannot thank the cast enough. They volunteer their time a couple of nights a week for a few months to do this. We try to make it fun for them, and there are a lot of laughs and great fellowship along the way, but they have to adjust their schedules for the foundation. They are the real stars in more ways than one.”

“Annie” runs December 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 and 23. For tickets and more information, call Kimberly Stevens in the box office at 410-822-7299 or visit avalonfoundation.org.

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