Four outstanding performances of SPEF’s 5th grade musical, Annie Jr., brought a smile to South Pasadenan families this weekend as close to 180 5th graders sang their hearts out on stage at South Pasadena High School. The massive production is a herculean feat of coordination between all three elementary schools, parents, SPHS production crew, SPEF staff, volunteers, the folks at Upstage and most of all the intrepid, young actors who have worked for months and gave the performances of their lives!
SPEF President, Megan Dostal, took to the stage to welcome the audiences to say how inspired she is to have watched the students not only learn their lines and to sing and dance but how they’ve also “learned resilience, discipline, sacrifice and teamwork.” She thanked the village that makes it all possible including everyone who worked on the production and most especially to the parents who did all the vital running around, getting not only their own kids but others’ kids to and from rehearsals, school and other extracurriculars. A herculean effort indeed.
But the show, people, the show! Impossible to name all of the fine thespians because there are literally over 180 of them! There were two complete casts and double and triple casting within each cast. Elizabeth Mullaly, Maya Lee, Emma Preston, Mareil Vargas-vonBreymann, Isabel Hogben, and Meryl Timmerman all took on the titular role of little orphan Annie, each bringing her own sass and sincerity to the role. Nayeli Romero, Eliana Andrea, Keira Adams, and Sophia Goldblatt had an absolute blast as the boozy, mean Mrs. Hannigan. Belting “Little Girls” for all they were worth was a highlight.
It’s always fun to see 5th graders taking on such a distinguished role as Daddy Warbucks and Max Davis-Denny, Jacob Noveman, Yianni Kades, and Alexander Michels did not disappoint! Then there is the hysterical duo of Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis whose “Easy Street” was easily the crowd favorite. Rooster was played with hilarious wiseguy attitude by Ryan Wong and Adam Ruiz while Mikala Toshima and Shelby Collins played Lily with fantastic verve and style!
The orphans each captured a specific character, which rounded out the cast perfectly, along with the entire ensemble from the dog catcher to the sound effects man, each had their moment in the sun. And the ensemble numbers were loud and proud, easily hitting the back row and beyond with their big sound. It was a sight to behold; the actors giving it their all, the parents squealing and applauding with delight and then at the show’s close, all clamoring for photos like paparazzi. What an incredible moment for these young people and what a tremendous experience that SPEF has provided.
The show was deftly directed by Patrick Hallahan, with clever choreography by Michael McClure, dynamic musical direction by Debra Kay Lee, period perfect costumes by Jeanie Joe and of course beautiful sets by James Jontz and his SPHS crew.
Bravo to SPEF, the entire production team and volunteers and most of all Bravo, standing ovation to our fantastic 5th grade actors!