By: Brenda Storseth Photo: Meraki Studios, Bri Miller
Leapin’ Lizards! The world’s best-loved musical, Annie, returns to the historic Crighton Stage presented by STAGE RIGHT of Texas, the Crighton’s resident theatre company from July 5-21, 2019. This beloved musical directed by Brenda Storseth and Sara Preisler is based on the popular comic strip, Little Orphan Annie that premiered in the 1920s in the New York Daily News. Featuring book and score by Tony Award®-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, ANNIE includes such unforgettable songs as “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” plus the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow.” With a perfect combination of street smarts and optimism, Annie, warms the hearts of the audience as we witness her rise from next-to-nothing in New York City. She is determined to find her parents, who left her at the orphanage years ago. Though things don’t quite work out the way she has planned, she does manage to thwart the plans of the evil Miss Hannigan, and find a new family with billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his secretary Grace Farrell, and her lovable pooch, Sandy.
Award winning director Brenda Storseth and crowd record-breaking director Sara Preisler have assembled an experienced and talented cast to bring this tale to life on the Crighton stage.
Leading the cast as Annie, the eternal and ultimate optimist, is 12-year old Emma Dantzler recently seen on the Crighton stage in Glitz! The Little Miss Christmas Pageant Musical as Sophia Loren and as Violet in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Playing the villain and the incredibly unfit guardian, Miss Hannigan, is the multi-talented songbird, Layne Roberts. Layne was last seen as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street and prior to that was seen as Helen Haley in Glitz-The Little Miss Christmas Pageant Musical.
The role of the too loud billionaire Lieutenant General Sir Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks is played by Bob Turner who was last seen in STAGE RIGHT’s award winning musical, Mary Poppins as Mr. George Banks.
Portraying the classy and calm secretary to Oliver Warbucks, Grace Farrell, is Kathleen Baker who was last seen on the Crighton stage as Cinderella in Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
The conniving antagonist and hilarious “Rooster” is played by an audience favorite, Adam Isbell, who also won a Montie award last season for Best Actor in a musical as Frederick Frankenstein in the award winning Young Frankenstein. Adam was last seen on the Crighton stage as Andy Lee in 42nd Street and also Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka. Adam is also on the creative team for this show as assistant director.
The amazingly creative Sara Preisler is not only a co-director, choreographer and music director for this show, but also plays the part of Lily St. Regis, the tertiary antagonist and Rooster’s ditzy girlfriend. Sara is also an audience favorite and was last seen in 42nd Street as the aspiring 1930’s chorus girl Peggy Sawyer. Other recent roles have been Inga in Young Frankenstein, Ulla in The Producers, Wednesday in The Addams Family and her Montie Award winning tapping turn as Kathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain. She also directed Glitz! The Little Miss Christmas Pageant and A Charlie Brown Christmas which sold the most tickets in the history of STAGE RIGHT.
Returning to the Crighton Stage as Drake, Oliver Warbuck’s butler is Johnny Barton who was also last seen in 42nd Street as Pat Denning. A DJ at KSTAR Country radio, Johnny has appeared on Conroe area stages for many years most recently in the Conroe Shakespeare Festival and as gangster Sonny Barbosa in Farce of Nature, and a gangster in Kiss Me Kate at the Owen.
The supporting roles of the orphans in Annie are played by seven talented young ladies. Molly, the adorable and youngest orphan who starts the show with her cry for “Mama” is played by newcomer Alayna Yerian.
The part of the quiet sweet Kate is played by Alexa Barreda who is also aspiring actress in STAGE RIGHT’s Bravo Company last gracing the stage in Rockin’ Robin Hood.
Playing the part of Tessie who is known for her catchphrase, “Oh my goodness, Oh my goodness!” is Camille Rickwalt last seen on the Crighton stage as Paula Porcupone in Glitz! The Little Miss Christmas Pageant.
Duffy, the peacemaker of the orphans, is portrayed by Jillian Ezar who last lit up the stage in Glitz! The Little Miss Christmas Pageant as Goodness Gracious and Violet in Willy Wonka.
Making her debut on the Crighton Stage is Mia Brandimarte who plays the part of July and is a talented tap dancer. Mia has also had the part of Molly in Class Acts Production of Annie. Playing the bossy and feisty Pepper is the talented Daire McLeod last seen glittering the stage in Glitz! The Little Miss Christmas Pageant as Barbie Spangles. Other roles include Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The ensemble orphans are played by Jessica Moore, Ava Czahor, Mia Melley, Collisa Payne, Cailin Wilkins, Gabby Rickwalt, Chloe Boivin, Keali Krueger, and Amy Massey who also play numerous roles throughout the show. Ava, Collisa, Gabby, Keali and Amy all were last seen in Glitz! The Little Miss Christmas Pageant.
John Kaiser who was recently seen on the Crighton stage in The Diary of Anne Frank as the dentist, Mr. Dussel is now playing the part of President Franklin Roosevelt. John also assists in the ensemble playing various roles throughout the play. He was also the Mysterious Man in Into the Woods and has performed in many venues throughout Houston including the Classical Theatre Company and Playhouse 1960.
The talented ensemble have many roles throughout the show including Oliver Warbuck’s staff, Hooverville residents, New Yorkers in the famous NYC scene and President Roosevelt’s cabinet members. In our multi-talented ensemble we have many actual family members including Velvet McWhirter who plays the part of Mrs. Greer and Frances Perkins and other roles. She is the parent to Owen and Jace McWhirter who are also in the ensemble playing several parts throughout the musical. Keath Krueger plays several roles including Mr. Bundles and the ventriloquist McKracken while his son, Austin, plays Wacky and his daughter, Keali, who is in the ensemble also plays an orphan. Robin Rickwalt who has two daughters involved plays the role of Mrs. Pugh and ensemble and is a parent to both Camille (Tessie) and Gabby who plays an orphan and ensemble. Her husband, Gerrit Rickwalt, has been a huge help behind the scenes. Jessica and Lauren Moore are sisters who play multiple roles throughout the play. Lauren is one of the Boylen Sisters and you will see Jessica back-flipping across the stage in “Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” as an orphan. Their brothers Joe and Evan are also a part of the show both on stage and behind the scenes.
The well-known and beloved Lott twins, Monae and Monique play many roles including the Boylen Sisters and ensemble. Both Monae and Monique are seasoned actresses and have been in many STAGE RIGHT productions including the recent 42nd Street as dancers. Katie Kowalik who recently took on the daunting role of Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank is in the Annie ensemble and her mother, Kara, is our multi-talented Prop Mistress. She is assisted by her husband, Tommy Kowalik who has assisted in building many of the STAGE RIGHT’s sets.
Making his debut to the Crighton stage and playing the part of Bert Healy is the incredibly talented Chris Daniel who not only portrays many roles throughout the show, but also is the “voice” in every radio announcement. A memorable role he plays is the part of the cantankerous Harold Ickes in the White House when the president demands he sing “Tomorrow”.
Carly Cremin who runs Carley’s Mercantile in downtown Conroe plays the part of the apple seller. Sean Sears who was last seen on the stage as a Nazi in The Diary of Anne Frank and a thug in 42nd Street, plays numerous roles including a cop and Morgenthau. Melissa Cummins who has an extensive background in theatre has been in several STAGE RIGHT musicals, portrays the part of the Sophie in Hooverville and in ensemble. Both she and Sam Siemonsma lead the group in singing “Hooverville”, the sardonic tribute to former President Herbert Hoover. Sam Siemonsma, an ensemble member is not a stranger to the Crighton Stage. He played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, Pig Pen in A Charlie Brown Christmas, and a part of the chorus in Willy Wonka.
Lieutenant Ward is played by one of STAGE RIGHT’s board member, Tom Richards. Tom has been seen helping out in numerous shows both backstage and on stage and was last seen in A Trip to Bountiful.
John Kenward, another ensemble member, has many roles throughout the play including Santa Claus in NYC. He has been a tremendous help backstage as well. Finally, probably one of the highlights of the show is the dog, Sandy, who is being played by Sumi, the DA dog who is a golden retriever lab owned by Pam Traylor. Sumi is a courthouse dog who helps to calm young children who are witnesses in court. You can imagine how much love she gets backstage!
Also on our production crew include our award winning costumer, Debbie Preisler, stage manager – Wendy Albright, sound engineer -Maddie Rodriguez, microphones – Sarah Long and Ara Hollyday, lighting engineers – Evan Moore and Kevin Downs, our make-up technician, Kailey Johnson and running ropes – Charles Smith.
SPOTLIGHT NON-PROFIT PARTNER
As with every STAGE RIGHT show, a need in the community is highlighted and then a spotlight is thrown on an organization helping with that need. Spotlight Non-Profit partners set up a table in the lobby during the run of a production and distribute information, collect donations, solicit volunteers, etc. The Heartworm Foundation will be the Spotlight Non-Profit partner for Annie. The mission of The Heartworm Foundation is to remove heartworms as a barrier to adoption for dogs from Montgomery County animal shelters by working with adopters and other nonprofit rescues to supply treatment. Patrons of Annie are encouraged to visit their information table in the lobby. If unable to attend the show but would still like to help this worthy cause, we hope you will consider contacting them directly via email: email@example.com . Physical mail or donations sent to:
P.O. Box 130231
Spring, TX 77393
Annie runs July 5-21st Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. The historic Crighton Theatre is located at 234 N. Main Street in downtown Conroe, Texas. Tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for seniors and $15 for youth under 16 yr. Group discounts are available by calling the box office. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Crighton box office 936-441-7469 or online at www.stage-right.org.