Big-time production of little orphan at Roosevelt Middle

Payton Soehn, left, is Miss Hannigan, Derick McLaughlin is Daddy Warbucks and Maggie Wehr is Annie in Roosevelt Middle School’s upcoming production of “Annie Jr.”Photo by Elyse Kaner
Payton Soehn, left, is Miss Hannigan, Derick McLaughlin is Daddy Warbucks and Maggie Wehr is Annie in Roosevelt Middle School’s upcoming production of “Annie Jr.” Photo by Elyse Kaner

Leapin’ lizards! Roosevelt Middle School presents the largest theater production ever to be presented by the school.

Audiences will revel in the heart-warming story of Thomas Meehan ’s “Annie Jr,” with music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin.

Why should people attend the musical?

The show is bound to put a smile on people’s faces, said director Shanan Edelheit.

“Because you’re never fully dressed without a smile,” he elaborates, borrowing a line from a featured song with the same title.

Based on the former comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” the show is about the lovable orphan seeking her parents who abandoned her years ago. She ends up at the New York City Orphanage run by the tough and outlandish Miss Hannigan. Hannigan’s brother Rooster adds to his sister’s shenanigans. Annie manages to escape, befriends another lovable character, a mutt named Sandy, and they both find a new home with billionaire Oliver Warbucks. But when Hannigan and Rooster attempt to steal Annie away, well, the feathers start flying.

The 50-member cast packs the show with high-level choreography, thanks to choreographer Heather Johnson.

“Expect ‘Stomp’-style dance, tap, as well as large scale company dance numbers that should really impress,” Edelheit said.

Edelheit last directed “Honk” and “The Wizard of Oz” at RMS. Among other productions, he has also directed two competition one-acts at Blaine High School and has served as tech director for eight productions there.

This is Edelheit’s first time directing “Annie Jr.” Still, he’s on familiar terms with the show. He played the role of Daddy Warbucks when he was a senior in high school in 1997.

Eighth-grader Derick McLaughlin plays Daddy Warbucks in Roosevelt’s musical. He has watched the “Annie” movie about eight times “and to actually be that character is inspiring,” he said.

This is Maggie Wehr’s biggest role yet. The seventh-grader plays Annie. Having a leading role ups the stress factor though. One has to learn more lines, remember more blocking. Still, Maggie likes acting. “You get to be someone else you’re not,” she said.

And for seventh-grader Payton Soehn, who plays Miss Hannigan, being in the show offers another dimension.

“I met a lot of people,” she said. “I was a new kid this year and early on was really accepted.”

Edelheit says he’s working yearly to raise the bar of student accomplishment in RMS’s theater productions.

Eight student crew members perform behind the scenes duties to make the show a reality. Mike Agre, the show’s music director, accompanies on keyboard.

The show engages students of multi-grade levels and ability levels.

“We are very proud that RMS Theater is a place for everyone who wants to be involved, both on stage and backstage,” Edelheit said.

Roosevelt Middle School Theater presents “Annie Jr.,” directed by Shanan Edelheit. May 2, 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. Adults, $5, students and seniors, $3. Children under the age of 3, free. Tickets are available at door. Roosevelt Middle School is located at 650 125 Ave. N.E. in Blaine. For more information, call the school at 763-506-5800.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]