The musical Annie is the first movie Ellicia Elliott remembers watching as a kid growing up in the Tri-Cities.
“I sang the songs nonstop for years afterward,” Elliott said. “I remember singing Tomorrow for my grandparents every time I spoke with them on the phone. They were very patient.”
She’s all grown up now, but still loves the Broadway musical that debuted 37 years ago, so much so that she’s directing the Academy of Children’s Theatre production of the classic. Annie opens Oct. 10 in the auditorium at Richland High School.
“This is the first time in the 19 years ACT has existed that they have produced Annie,” she said. “It can be a huge undertaking, but I have the perfect production team to make it work.”
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The curly-haired Annie will be portrayed by 11-year-old Carmichael Middle School student Sierra Thomsen, making her debut in a starring role with ACT.
“It really is a dream to be playing the role of Annie,” Sierra said. “I am so grateful to be able to sing the songs I love and to act with such talented actors. Although it has been a lot of hard work, opening night will make it all worthwhile.”
The musical is based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. Annie is sent to live in an orphanage in 1933 America with a handful of other homeless kids.
The orphanage is run by a scalding witch of a woman, Miss Hannigan, so Annie runs away in search of her missing parents. She saves a scruffy little dog she calls Sandy from the clutches of the dogcatcher.
Too soon, Miss Hannigan’s henchman finds Annie and returns her to the orphanage. Hannigan is played by Tri-City singer/actor Cathy Kelly.
An assistant to billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks comes to the orphanage, looking for an orphan to spend Christmas at the Warbucks mansion.
Seeing Annie, the assistant asks for her, and Hannigan reluctantly agrees.
Annie thinks she has died and gone to heaven when she arrives at the mansion, but it takes a while for her and Sandy to wiggle their way into Warbucks’ heart.
Richland actor Sam Shick plays Warbucks, even shaving his head for the role.
Shick, the nutrition services director for the Kennewick School District, has been involved with ACT since his children were young.
“My kids are all grown up now,” he said. “And becoming Daddy Warbucks has been a rewarding experience because it’s reminded me of what it’s like to have young children again.
“Sierra reminds me of my daughter Emily at that age. We’ve had a lot of fun singing and dancing together.”
Elliott raves about the chemistry between her two lead actors.
“Sam and Sierra are the perfect match on stage,” she said. “I’ve become emotional watching them act on stage during the last few rehearsals. Their relationship is fantastic.”
Elliott borrowed her friend’s dog to play Sandy. His real name is Toby, and Elliott said the pooch is a natural.
“Toby is so well trained and has that perfect lovable mutt look you need for a dog like Sandy,” she said.
Curtain time is 7 p.m. Oct. 10-11, 17-18 with 2 p.m. matinees Oct. 12 and 19.
Richland High is at 930 Long Ave. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 students and seniors, $7 for kids 11 and younger and available at the ACT studio, 213 Wellsian Way or at the door.