The cast of Annie perform a number during a dress rehearsal Wednesday night. The musical is running at Grande Prairie Regional College from Feb. 28-March 3.
Maureen McEwan/Daily Herald-Tribune
A second musical is hitting the stage in Grande Prairie this month with Annie opening tonight. Charles Spencer is presenting the show at Douglas J. Cardinal Performing Arts Centre Feb. 28 to March 3.Annie is based on a comic strip by Harold Grey and was eventually turned into a popular, Tony Award-winning musical. Set in 1933, the show chronicles the adventures of “Annie,” an orphan in New York City.“With equal measures of pluck and positivity, little orphan Annie charms everyone’s hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. She is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage that is run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other girls in the orphanage, Annie escapes to the wondrous world of NYC. In adventure after fun-filled adventure, Annie foils Miss Hannigan’s evil machinations… and even befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt! She finds a new home and family in billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary, Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy. ” GPRC’s website states.Lyndsey Mitchell is both the director and musical director of the show as well as a teacher with the Grande Prairie Public School District. She said she was excited heading into opening night, especially with the energy following Mamma Mia’s recent run.“The story [Annie] itself is really fun. The songs are super fun and I think that a lot of people are going to know some of them but they are not going to know all of them, right?” Mitchell said. “Because everyone knows “Tomorrow,” “Hard Knock Life,” those things, but then there’s just a couple of hidden gems in there that maybe aren’t in the movies or people just don’t remember because they are not as much of an ‘ear bug,’ if you will.”The musical was chosen in the spring of last year. Auditions took place in early October, with rehearsals beginning a few weeks later. The cast includes 28 students from across the city: 22 from Charles Spencer, four from Composite High School, one from École Montrose and one from I.V. Macklin. There is also a dog in the show playing “Sandy.”Mitchell said she asked the cast members to do backstory assignments during the course of the production. At the schools she works at, American history in the 1930s isn’t always featured prominently in the curriculum, so she said she worked to adapt the context for the students.“It was interesting for them to read more about the Great Depression but we also kind of tied it back to issues in our own community as well,” she said. “So I think that when we make those parallels, that really helped them to dig into their characters a little bit more.”Issues that Mitchell had the students explore included poverty and foster care systems in Grande Prairie. She said it was interesting to see the students raise questions and ideas around the more “serious undertones” in the musical.“I think that adds a little more. Like it’s fun [the show] but a lot of the issues we looked at— poverty, children without families—I think those are still real issues today.”Since 2015, Charles Spencer has put on several musicals including Oklahoma, Cinderella, Into the Woods and The Sound of Music. Along with its cast of 29, Annie features a live pit band with students and community members.“It’s really fun for me to see so much happening with the performing arts in Grande Prairie and it seems to grow every year. So I’m hoping we can just keep building on that,” Mitchell said.“For me, at the end of the day, it’s always about the students. And for them, being able to present their work – and I mean literal blood, sweat and tears – for them to actually have an audience come out and support them, it’s really impactful on those kids’ lives,” she added.To learn more about tickets, call Revolution Place Box Office at (780) 538-0387 or visit online at revolutionplace.com.