‘Annie’ comes to Vassar High School this weekend

Vassar Public Schools teacher Beth Rittenberg arranges the hair of Victoria DuRussel before Monday night's dress rehearsal of the musical "Annie." Admission to the Friday and Saturday performances costs $7 for adults and $6 for students and senior citizens. (Photo by John Cook)
Vassar Public Schools teacher Beth Rittenberg arranges the hair of Victoria DuRussel before Monday night’s dress rehearsal of the musical “Annie.” Admission to the Friday and Saturday performances costs $7 for adults and $6 for students and senior citizens. (Photo by John Cook)

With a certain billionaire on the minds of many these days, a little red-headed orphan in Vassar has claimed her own and is more than happy to sing and dance about it.
Don’t believe it?
Proof can be found at the Vassar High School Auditorium when the Vassar High School Thespian Society presents its latest performance this weekend.
“Annie” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12.
The 1977 Broadway musical is about an 11-year-old orphan set in the 1930s. The orphan dreams to be taken home by her parents but is instead put in the care of billionaire Oliver Warbucks.
Students will perform and sing hit songs from the musical including “Tomorrow,” “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” and “Maybe.” Tickets are on sale at $7 for adults and $6 for seniors and students.
Dianne Hackett, Vassar High School theater director, estimated a two hour and 15 minute program comprised of eight scenes in Act 1 followed by an intermission and six more in Act 2.
“Some of the community members really enjoy it,” said Hackett. “Some friends, family and former students come back every year.”
Those community members come from around the Thumb including Clio, Frankenmuth and Bay City, Hackett added.
Expect 17 girls dressed as Depression-era orphans and few guys filling in male rolls. Hackett said the shortage is because of boys’ fall sports.
“We do a musical each year and a play in spring,” said Hackett. “Annie was chosen because we have limited boys that participate. About six boys are in the play and only two are doing main roles.”
Hackett noted a play is choosen based on who is available to play a certain part. The oldest male student in the group was the obvious choice for Oliver Warbucks, she said. For the past four years, Hackett said the program has been casting both middle and high school students for plays to have more participation.
Thirty-four actors will participate in the production with 17 of them playing orphans. The role of Annie was given to sophomore Brianna Hubbard.
“I found out the second or third week of school, like a day or two after auditions,” said Hubbard, 15, who said the role was originally going to be given to a middle school student. “My favorite scene is definitely ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life.’ The middle school orphans have so much energy.”
In spring, Hackett said she picked a play with five male leads for “Our Miss Brooks,” a story based on CBS’s nearly decade-long radio program and four-year television series of a sardonic high school English teacher.
A preview performance will commence at 1:15 p.m. today for middle school students and the same time Thursday for the high school. Hubbard told The Advertiser she wasn’t concerned about any shows but high school students may not display their best behavior, she said.
Nancy Neuroth, vocal coach for the Thespians, said she focuses on students’ vocal work with the piano, orchestra and individually during rehearsals.
“It’s always wonderful working with the kids and seeing them improve as practices go on,” said Neuroth. “And with their characters and music, it’s something we’ve enjoyed doing for a long time.”
Neuroth expects to see up to 600 attendees between the two evening shows. The auditorium can hold up to 400 spectators.
“We like to have full performances but we want to do things that people would like to see – a lot of people in Vassar come out to see them,” said Neuroth.
On average, Hackett said, the school makes about $3,000 from ticket sales for each production. The highest amount earned was from last year’s rendition of “Shrek” which brought in $4,000. It was also the most expensive show to produces at a cost of nearly $5,000, which included background drops and the renting of costumes. The average cost to make a play or musical is between $3,500 and $5,000 Hackett said.
At one point the plays and musicals experienced their own hard knock life.
For a time, the program shut down because there wasn’t a director, Hackett said. But in 1985, Hackett explained, a local minister’s wife, Marilyn DeGraw, took over as director when the school was in need of one. Since then the school has had continual plays and musicals. Hackett said she has been involved with the program as a choreographer since 1985 before moving up to assistant director in 1988 and director in 1993.
For more information about the play, contact Dianne Hackett at 989-823-8284.
Debanina Seaton is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at debanina@tcadvertiser.com

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