That’s my daughter, Katlynn (above) singing the well-known song “Tomorrow.” She’s 14 years old and starts high school next year. I’m extremely proud of her all the time, but after watching her perform Friday night, I’m still beaming with pride. It’s one of those things that I don’t think that I can adequately explain to someone who does not have children. Every time I hear her sing, I’m absolutely blown away. I wonder where that voice that pours from her came from – it literally gives me chills to hear her sing. And then I realize that the voice singing from the stage is coming from someone who her mother and I created. She is the best of both of us, and I’m in awe of her some times (other times I want to strangle her, but hey – that’s what raising kids is all about).
Friday night, March 16th, I attended the final performance of South-Doyle Middle School’s 2012 musical, “Annie Jr.” (an adaptation of “Little Orphan Annie” for pre-high school kids). My daughter, Katlynn – an eighth grader, landed the lead role of Annie this year, and after months of after school practice, I couldn’t wait to see her do her thing on stage. To say I loved it, is an understatement. I was blown away. So, without further ado, here is my completely biased review of the South-Doyle Middle School Fine Arts Department’s presentation of “Annie Jr.”
Annie Jr. opens with Annie returning to the orphanage late at night to find orphan Molly (Chloe Rummel) crying out for her mother. To soother her, Annie reads the note her parents left with her as an infant and sings a heartfelt rendition of the song, “Maybe.” It was at this instant that I knew this wasn’t going to be a normal middle school musical production. Annie’s voice was pure and clear, and the harmony sung by the other orphans blended beautifully with this opening number. No, this wasn’t going to be the usual middle school production at all. This was going to be something special.
And in came the crazy, evil lady who runs the orphanage, Miss Hannigan – played perfectly by eighth grader, Laura Buckner. With smeared lipstick and crazy hair, she browbeat the orphans and put them to work. Now, if you don’t know the story of Annie or the music, it’s at this point in the show that you’re in for a real treat, because it’s the forced chores that lead to one of the most fun to watch and hear numbers in the entire musical: “Hard Knock Life.” The whole number was a joy to watch, and you could see the hard work and creativity that choral teachers, Bethany Williams and Rebecca McCurdy put into the direction and choreography.
During the scene, Annie sneaks into the laundry hamper and escapes the orphanage. During her journey, she picks up a stray dog that she names Sandy – and let me tell you that eighth grader, Kelsea Stilwell almost stole the show playing the role of Sandy the Dog. At one point, you could hear an audible sigh in the audience as Sandy wimpered off the stage.
This is also the point at which we get the first rendition of probably the most known song from Annie, “Tomorrow.” Katlynn Armstrong’s powerful rendition of the tune was rewarded with a 20-30 second round of applause that included hoots and whistles.
Annie’s escape doesn’t last long, and she is returned to the orphanage and Miss Hannigan, and just as she thinks she’s never going to escape, she’s offered a chance to spend Christmas at the Warbucks mansion by Warbucks trusted assistant, Grace Farrell (played by seventh grader, Julia Woods). This had to be one of the funniest scenes as Annie coaches Grace with hand signals about what exact kind of orphan she needed from behind Miss Hannigan.
From there we are introduced to some very fun characters in the next two scenes: Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, played superbly and sublimely by eighth grader, Austin Monday; Rooster Hannigan (Miss Hannigan’s con man brother) played by eighth grader, Tyler Ward; and Lily St. Regis (Rooster’s wild girlfriend) played by seventh grader, Brittany Baldwin.
In fact, the absolute funniest scenes of the musical involve the Hannigans and St. Regis singing the number, “Easy Street” as they scheme to get money from Warbucks. Laura Buckner hams up the action as Miss Hannigan by literally dancing on her desk. The crowd loved it both times it happened (in the scene and in reprise later on).
The musical ends with Warbucks and Grace uncovering Rooster and Lily’s plot with the help of the FBI and the most unusual FDR character I’ve ever seen (laughing). And finally Warbucks and Annie unite to sing a reprise of the song, “Tomorrow.”
I was so very impressed with this musical and the hard work that the entire cast and crew put into it. It really paid off and was among the very best school musical productions that I’ve ever seen (including high school productions). South-Doyle Middle School and Knox County Schools should be incredibly thankful that they have teachers who care as much as and are willing to put in as much extra work as Bethany Williams and Rebecca McCurdy. They are one-in-a-million and really make a difference in the lives of the kids they teach.
Thank you, SDMS Fine Arts Department for making my Friday night special. You were awesome.
If you’d like to see all of the photographs of the performance and the cast and crew that I donated to SDMS, simply use the following links: