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Stone Presents 'Annie Jr.'

Directed by theater teacher Lois Walsh and featuring an energetic cast and crew of 43, Stone Middle School proudly presents the musical, "Annie Jr."

Show times are Thursday, Dec. 2, at 3:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 4, at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 703-631-5500.

BASED ON the comic strip, "Annie Jr." tells of a spunky, Depression-era girl, abandoned years ago by her parents on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage, yet determined to find them. Her life changes for the better when she meets billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, his secretary and a dog named Sandy.

Complete with curly hair and bright red dress, eighth-grader Taylin Frame, 13, plays the title role, and couldn't be happier. "I wanted this part because I played Molly [another orphan] in it when I was in fourth grade at Bull Run Elementary," she said. "I like to sing the songs and, even though I have lots of lines to learn, it's still fun because it's a really great musical."

She describes her character as loving toward all the other orphans and hopeful that her parents are still alive. Taylin's favorite song in the show is her signature number, "Tomorrow," because "it tells everyone that, even if you're alone in the world, you can still have faith, stick up you chin, grin and say, 'The sun will come out tomorrow.''

She also likes "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" because the orphans imitate a well-known radio announcer while they sing it. Taylin said the audience should enjoy the show because "we practiced really hard and I think we're going to do well."

Eighth-grader Claire Manship, 13, plays the villain, Miss Hannigan. "She is revolting and evil and finds joy in making people angry," said Claire. "She runs the orphanage and takes care of all the little girls she hates."

AND CLAIRE is having a great time playing this role. "Normally, my parts are quiet and shy, but this part lets me express myself," she said. "She's so terribly mean that people cower in her presence, and she absolutely adores it that people are scared of her."

The toughest part, she said, is "when you're yelling at the children, it's hard to sing right after that, full voice." The best part, she said, is that "I get to yell and be loud, blow a whistle and threaten people."

As for the show, said Claire, "The production has come together well, and I'm terribly proud of everybody. And I love everyone's speaking voices — they know exactly how to sound on every, different line — and the choreography's adorable."

Portraying Oliver Warbucks is classmate Garrett Holland, 13. "He's a serious person — really into business," he said. "But then he meets Annie and becomes more sensitive and softer. It's fun because it's a lead role and it's my first lead."

He's also pleased because he wears a special cap so he'll look bald. The hardest part, said Garrett, is "all the lines I have to memorize," but he's thrilled to be in the play. His favorite song is "Hey, Hobo Man" because "the orphans sing it, and it's fast-tempo and fun to listen to."

Hannah Cunius, 13, plays Grace Farrell, Warbucks' private secretary. "She's nice, sweet and very thoughtful," said Hannah. "She really cares about Annie and is very bright."

She, too, is delighted with her role. "When I was trying out, I really wanted to get this part," she explained. "I watched all the 'Annie' movies, and Grace really stood out for me because she was similar to me. But she's still a challenge to play — which is good for me because my dream is to become an actress."

Hannah said her character's voice has both high and low singing ranges, and hers is mostly soprano. But she likes playing Grace because "I love her personality." Her solo, "I think I'm Gonna Like It Here," tells how Grace plans to help Annie. And, she added, "I think the audience will really like this show because it'll appeal to people of all different ages."

Russell Wagoner, almost 13, plays Rooster, Miss Hannigan's brother. "He's a con artist and tries to steal Annie for money," said Russell. "He's the biggest sleazeball in the play. This is the first time I've ever played the bad guy, so it's a nice change."

HIS FAVORITE part is the song "East Street" which he sings with his sister and his girlfriend, Lily St. Regis. "It's about where we want to be when we get all this money from Mr. Warbucks," he said. "Me and my girlfriend are pretending to be Annie's parents because Warbucks loves Annie and wants to help her family." Overall, Russell believes "Annie Jr." will be "a knockout — we've got awesome vocal talent."

Playing Lily is seventh-grader Emily Howell, who describes her character as "ditzy, outgoing and clueless about what's going on in the world around her. She's really fun to play because she's crazy sometimes, is so alive and has so many different emotions."

"I love acting — it's my favorite thing to do," continued Emily. "When I get on stage, everything goes away and I am the character." She especially likes the song, "N.Y.C." because "you get to see a different side of Warbucks and lots of people in the cast sing in it." As for the play, she said, "The actors enjoy themselves so much that it really comes through to the audience."

Zack Walsh, 9, of Woodstock fame in last year's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," wears a fluffy, white costume and plays Sandy the dog. "Annie finds me on the street and feels sorry for me," he said. "It's really fun to pretend I'm an animal because I get to crawl, chase my tail and dig. And I even bark to the song, 'Tomorrow.'"

Morgan Krause, 13 1/2, is stage manager and light supervisor. "I make sure everyone does their job, the actors are in their places, and everyone knows what the next light cues are and what spotlight goes on who," she said. "We have a blast."

Co-stage manager and sound supervisor, Amanda Buckner, 13, set up the sound system. "You have to make sure the mics work and the music goes through all the speakers and it's not too loud — or else you get feedback," she said. "I've never liked singing and acting, but I've always wanted to be a part of it."

Props mistress and scene-change supervisor is Kelsey Grainer, 12. "We organize all the props for each scene, in order, on a table in the hallway and make sure no one moves them around," she said. "And I make sure everything gets brought on and off stage smoothly."