By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac
How to make the hit musical "Annie" feel fresh 40 years after it debuted on Broadway? Woodside Community Theatre's approach is to add tap dancing, roller skating, tumbling, some physical comedy and a dream sequence to liven things up and boost the show's positive message. As director Gary Stanford Jr. of Woodside says: "If Annie can, anybody can."
The amateur theatrical group's fall show will be staged with a cast of 20 children, 30 adults, four dogs and a live orchestra at the Woodside High School Performing Arts Center from Oct. 20 to 29.
The setting is 1933, during the Great Depression. "The country is in despair, and an orphan girl who has no idea who her parents are, comes across a rich man and wins his heart," Stanford said.
At the point when Annie sings the song, "Tomorrow," he wanted to illustrate what could happen tomorrow, so he has scripted in a kid, teen, and adult version of Annie to be lit in silhouette.
Brynn Ayoob, an eighth-grader at Northstar Academy in Redwood City, plays the lead role in six of the shows. Her understudy, Gabriella Rosendin, a sixth-grader from San Jose, plays Annie in the matinee performance on Oct. 28.
Brynn, who has been doing competitive dancing for five years, played Little Girl in the Woodside Community Theatre's production of "Ragtime" last year. This is her first lead role in musical theater.
Her sister Samantha is also an orphan in "Annie." Their dog Monty is appearing as one of the strays, while their father Brett is assistant stage manager.
Oliver Warbucks is played by Steve Wilner, a salesman in human resources in Dublin, who returns to the Woodside Community Theatre after portraying Billy Flynn in "Chicago" a couple of years ago.
Playing Hannigan is someone new to the theater group, Jessica Lafever, who is coming straight from performing in Palo Alto Players' "Million Dollar Quartet."
A dozen Woodsiders are in the cast, including Minna Rogers as Grace Ferrell, Torrey Rothstein as Rooster, and his wife, Fiona Ryan, in various parts. The couple has participated in Woodside Community Theatre productions since 2012, but the performance record probably belongs to longtime veterans Darrell and Darlene Batchelder, who are appearing in multiple roles in this show.
Students Vianne Nickel, Kate Cornyn, Grace and Molly Sikorski, Ava Ricci, and Mari Marhefka play orphans. Mari's father, Damian, is back acting in a couple of parts after headlining as Captain von Trapp in the Woodside group's production of "Sound of Music."
Mercy High School dance teacher Gary Ferguson was in "Ragtime" and is back in the ensemble. So is Richard Vaughan, music director at Hillview Middle School where most of the rehearsals have taken place. He is joined by his wife, Liz Matchett, in the ensemble. She is also co-producing the musical with Mark Bowles, Donna Losey and Raissa Marchetti.
Sacred Heart Schools vocal teacher Kristen Pfeifer returns as music director. Kim Harvath of Woodside is back as choreographer, collaborating with the director.
When he's not minding his ingenue acting dog Candy, Don Coluzzi of Portola Valley is the technical director, working on lights and set design. He is assisted by a handful of Woodsiders: Steve Patrick as shop director, Steve's wife Tina painting sets, Kevin Stanford on props, Chuck Martin on spotlight, and Karen Peterson as house manager.
Losey said given "the theme is orphanages and adoption we thought we may be able to… do some good for another organization," so 20 tickets are being given to foster families. Donations will be collected at the shows for the San Mateo County Children's Fund. That program provides clothing, school supplies, diapers, Halloween costumes and holiday gifts to families in need.
Tickets: Click here to buy tickets online. Prices range from $15 for students to $30 for adults, and may be sold at the door depending on demand. Performances are on Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 22, at 1:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 29, at 1:30 p.m. The Woodside High School Performing Arts Center is at 199 Churchill Ave., off of Woodside Road.