Family affair: mother joins daughters in Annie cast
Only in Bermuda could a musical about an orphan turn into a celebration of family. Annie opens tomorrow night with relatives aplenty in its nearly 100-strong cast.
Sisters Hannah and Avery Taylor were thrilled to get roles in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda production as was their mother, Rachael Barritt.
“In high school I acted but what really got us all back to it was Hannah and the Magic of the Musicals,” she said of her daughter’s stage debut two years ago.
“She was in that show and then did the Wizard of Oz the next year and convinced me to try out.
“We did it together. I was Auntie Em and she was in the Lullaby League, in the Munchkin scene, a Snowflake and a child of Oz.
“Avery came to basically every rehearsal with us. She was too young to try out before, but when we heard about Annie, we decided it was the perfect show for her to try out for.”
They were again encouraged by 11-year-old Hannah, who spotted audition posters for Annie and “thought it would be a fun thing to try”.
Many other families had the same idea.
Gillian Henderson and her daughter, Annika, Jennifer Minors and her daughter, Kiyana, Jon Brunson and his great-nieces, Alay and Jada, Philip Barnett and his daughter, Hailey, Che Barker and his daughter, Lola, and Will Kempe and his daughter, Billy Rose, will all take centre stage at Earl Cameron Theatre over the next week and a half.
Also participating are a number of siblings: Kendall and Kaelyn Burrows, Robyn and Erin Kelly, Mila Medeiros and Eva O’Connor, Milahn and Nhooa Powell and Natalia and Alejandra Tafur.
Annie opened on Broadway in 1977, setting a record for its run of nearly six years. Numerous productions and tours around the world followed; the Broadway show won several Tony Awards.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society gives this synopsis: Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Her luck soon changes when she’s chosen to spend a fairytale Christmas with famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.
Meanwhile, spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search for her true family. With its Tony Award-winning book and score, including the unforgettable songs It’s The Hard-Knock Life, Easy Street and Tomorrow, this is a show not to be missed.
As she had seen Annie in New York, Hannah was familiar with the plot and eager to try out for the Bermuda production. With only a little effort, the BHS student was able to persuade her mother and her seven-year-old sister to join her.
“I was kind of nervous trying out,” said Avery, who also studies at BHS. “But I wanted to because it looked like fun.”
The experience was daunting. The girls were given scenes to practise in preparation for the audition; callbacks demanded they show off their singing, dancing and acting skills.
“I think 150 girls tried out for 52 spots so it was a pretty big audition,” Ms Barritt said. “We did our best and practised, put on our best show and we were all lucky to get parts.”
Hannah plays an orphan, Tessie; Avery is in the orphan ensemble. Their mother is in the chorus, which means being “a servant, a New Yorker and a person in Hooverville”.
Gilbert & Sullivan decided in January that Annie would be its 2018 production. Auditions took place in June.
“There are a lot of working parents and cast members. A lot is done on Saturdays and in the evenings. In this one I’m in the chorus and I have four or five dances — I’m practising every day just to get my arms and legs right,” Ms Barritt laughed.
“To get involved takes a lot of organisation and a very supportive husband. I’m performing every night and the girls [every other night] and we’re here, particularly now, a lot of late nights. But it’s fun to come together for something. The three of us have really enjoyed our time together. It’s a really rewarding thing to do as a family.”
Her husband, Kevin Taylor, could not be convinced to try out with them.
The first show, tonight, is a special one for invited guests.
“We’re trying to fill it with people who normally do not come, so they have the opportunity to see it as well,” Ms Barritt said.
Hannah is particularly looking forward to the ‘Hard Knock Life’ scene where the orphans “get to go on bunk beds and clean the floors”.
A bonus is being able to work with industry professionals Cleo Pettit, the set and costume designer; Nina French, the artistic director; and Philip Shute, the musical director.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with people who do this as a living,” Ms Barritt said.
“There are no other opportunities on island where you get to see [all aspects of a production] everything from script to dances to lights; where you can build and construct sets and see all the work that goes into it.
“What’s great is that Cleo Pettit has offered kids and teens the chance to come and join in painting and building; people interested in that get the opportunity to work with a professional.
“But apart from that, it’s a great show. One of the reasons why the committee wanted to do it was because it involved the broadest base of cast members — adults and children — and it’s been a really rewarding experience for us. To see it all come together is amazing.”
• Annie opens tomorrow and runs through to October 7 at City Hall. The show resumes Tuesday, October 9 and runs through to October 13. Matinees take place this Saturday and Sunday and on the closing day, at 2pm. All other shows begin at 7pm. Tickets, $55, are available at ptix.bm
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