Through most of the 20th century, the red-ringleted moppet and her valiant canine companion have delighted first Sunday comics page readers and then Broadway-bound audiences alike. The tale of a spunky and penniless orphan who finds a home and a future through the love of one Mr. Warbucks began in Harold Gray's popular comic strip in 1922. Through World War II, political intrigue, separation from Sandy and Daddy Warbucks' occasional marriages, Annie was a funny page staple until Gray's death in 1968. In 1977, she was revived as a Broadway musical (leapin' lizards, so that's where that plaintive song comes from!) and has been a huge audience favorite ever since.
Spokane Children's Theatre presents Annie this holiday season, starting Thanksgiving Day, directed by Spokane Civic Theatre veteran Troy Nickerson, with musical direction by Becky Moonitz. Nickerson is a familiar face to Spokane theatergoers. He has even started his own company, the Spokane Theatrical Company, which will be doing A Christmas Carol, coming up next month at The Met.
Annie is Nickerson's fifth Thanksgiving show for the Children's Theatre. He played Smee in Peter Pan back in 1995 and 1997; he was Scrooge in Scrooge in both l998 and l999. And this year, he is contributing his directing skills.
One hundred and twenty girls showed up to audition for Annie and the six orphans. The lucky little girl to win the coveted role of Annie is Maryellen Cooley. A Spokane theater favorite, Melody Deatherage, recreates her role of Miss Hannagan from an earlier production of Annie at Spokane Civic Theatre. Tim Peterson plays Daddy Warbucks and Tami Knoell plays Grace, his secretary. Troy Nickerson and Bob Farley, president of Spokane Children's Theatre, were also in that early production at the Civic.
"This is our second adventure in producing a fully mounted Broadway musical; our first was Peter Pan," says Farley. "We have been challenged again to stretch our artistic and financial boundaries to bring a top-quality show to our appreciative audiences."
Although you usually only see one dog, Sandy, in Annie, there are three dogs in this production, all trained by Val Ellingson of the Family Dog. The dog thespians include William Shakesbear, a golden retriever who plays Sandy. Will is trained as an actor and does television as well as stage plays. In addition to Annie, he also handled the role of Nana in Peter Pan. Sandy is joined by Jeb, a miniature schnauzer, who played Toto in The Wizard of Oz at Spokane Civic Theatre a few seasons ago. And the tiniest canine cuddly is Libby, a tiny chihuahua, who is in the chorus and is Pepper's pet in the show.
The extensive scenery is designed and painted by artist Kate Vander Wende, who has worked with Nickerson in numerous productions.
"It's always great to work with Troy," says Vander Wende. "He always brings out the best in people." Scenery construction is being done by Justin Schmidt who also works in the same capacity for the Spokane Opera.
& & & lt;i & Annie opens Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23, at The Met and runs every night at 7 pm through Friday, Dec. 1, except Monday, Nov. 27. Matinees on Saturday, Nov. 25, and Sunday, Nov. 26, at 2 pm. Signing for the hearing impaired will be provided at both shows on Saturday, Nov. 25. Tickets: $6; $5 upper balcony. Call 328-4886 or 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &