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Albany High puts its own spin on Annie

March 16, 2015

by Vanessa Langdon

The Albany High School Theatre Ensemble is presenting a revamped version of Annie for the spring musical. The theatre ensemble has skewed the classic story to have a grittier true-life aesthetic.

The student theatre group, under the direction of Ward Dales, will perform the more realistic musical Thursday through Sunday. Daily shows from Thursday through
Saturday take place at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m.. Tickets are available at the door for $15 dollars. Student and senior tickets are $5.

The musical, Annie, is typically about a young orphan girl as she struggles to find a family to love her.This production uses the diverse population of Albany High School to create a story about a person’s struggles against all odds. According to Dales they have developed a tale where the orphans are not cute little girls but girls who are aging out of the system.

Dales, 50, chose Annie for this years show after taking inventory on who he had available to him. After creating a short list of musicals “we weren’t thrilled, so I went back to the giant list,” Dales said.

“We didn’t think about it because it’s schmaltzy, we normally do something with teeth,” Dales said of the more lighthearted show.

The group previously performed “Into The Woods” set in a mental hospital. Dales has similarly changed the context of Annie.

“The story is focusing on the relationships. You can’t escape the camp but in-between there are moments Annie thinks,” Dales said.

Cast members rehearse the arrival of Annie’s parents./Vanessa Langdon

Cast members rehearse the arrival of Annie’s parents./Vanessa Langdon

The ensemble of 40 students has been practicing the musical since October rehearsing after school 3 to 6 p.m. everyday.

The number of students involved in the show fluctuates throughout the preparations.

“We started with a cast of 52 but it’s gone down a lot. We have kids with complications in their lives,” Dales said of students who move, need to work after school, or have other pressing commitments.

Dales treats the group as he would a professional troupe and expects them to self-examine and create their own back stories for their characters.

“They have to personalize the role. When you get to that moment you can’t fake it, you have to have heart,” Dales said.

The group works hard both in rehearsals and out to create a musical they can be proud of.

“This is really not your typical high school production these kids are really trained as to how to work in the theater,” said Nancy Timpanaro-Hogan, 62.

She and Dales have worked together as professional actors and she joked that she would love to play the role of Miss Hannigan, and now has the role.

“It’s a great idea to have a professional work with the kids. It’s a remarkable happening and they’re learning from me and me more from them,” Timpanaro-Hogan said.

Timpanaro-Hogan said that she and the students are in the trenches together during rehearsals after she and Dales got through the red tape to get permission from the actors union and the high school for her involvement.

“They have an investment and they have a storyline whether speaking or not. These kids all know why they’re there,” Timpanaro-Hogan said.

The role of Grace Farrell is being portrayed by Albany High senior Lily Regan. This is Regan’s second production with the theatre ensemble but her first lead role.

Lily Regan, Morganne McClement, and Queone Sylvester (Left to Right) work on a scene in rehearsals./Vanessa Langdon

Lily Regan, Morganne McClement, and Queone Sylvester (Left to Right) work on a scene in rehearsals./Vanessa Langdon

“Everyone loves this musical it’s such fun and happy. We have a different feel we show the sadness. Annie is relatable,” Regan said.

Annie is portrayed by another student actor with her first lead role for the high school. Senior Morganne McClement spends the three hours a day rehearsing with her fellow actors at school before rehearsing for countless hours outside of school to make the show even better.

“It feels really good to be a lead. I put a lot of work going in to this the past three or four years,” McClement said.

She has been performing since fifth grade when she began singing as a canter at her church, Saint Thomas the Apostle in Delmar.

“It’s a timeless story that a lot of people have fallen in love with,” McClement said.

Students have worked tirelessly under the direction of Dales to bring the show together in a few short months.

“All Ward Dales’ productions have heart,” said Timpanaro-Hogan. “You will feel what the characters are feeling.” -30-

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