By TAMMI NAUDUS
This weekend, 30 cast members and crew will take the stage at Kennedy Middle School for a fourth and fifth grade performance performed by Kelley Elementary students, in their production of “Annie Jr.”
What makes this is show unique, is that the director and the behind-the-scenes crew of this production will be headed up by Southington High School students.
“I was an alumni of Kelley School,” said director Michael Ricciardone. “When I went to Kelley, I never got the experience to perform on stage. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring a Drama Club to Kelley.”
The first production was led by Ricciardone and recent graduate Emily Pestillo last year. Now, Ricciardone has enlisted help from the high school drama club, including Rebecca Lo Presti and Julia Kahl.
“I truly feel a Drama Club is such an amazing program for young students to be involved in for it helps students in various ways—communication, self-confidence, team work,” Ricciardone said.
The Kelley students echo the thoughts of their director. Mikalyn Mirisola, (who plays Grace Farrell) said, “It is fun to share your talents with all your friends. They helped me come out of my shell.”
Alyssa Polverari (playing the role of Rosie) added, “I would like to do another play, because it builds self-confidence and I love to sing.”
Emily Bennett (who plays Kate) said, “It was so fun to hang out with my cast mates when singing, acting and dancing together throughout the show. Everybody cares for and supports each other.”
Emily Fay (who plays Annie) said, “I learned that if I work hard, I can do many things. My director Michael, always tells me that it’s not about hitting all the high notes. It’s about telling the story. I don’t have to sound perfect. I just have to be me.”
The cast of the show, besides having a great time, have expressed how being a part of this production has been a learning experience for them as well. The student director echoed that sentiment.
“Directing in such a different side than performing. I love them both,” Ricciardone said. “As a director, you have the freedom to work things out and try different things. In this version of Annie, you should not walk in expecting brown orphanage walls and brown orphan costumes. I really feel this is a fresh production of Annie. My goal was that no matter how any times one has seen Annie, it is still something really special.”
Because “Annie” is so well-known, Ricciardone said that it was important to make the show come alive. In addition, he said that it was great to see the cast and crew grow throughout the production.
“People should come to see this show, because no matter how many times you’ve seen Annie, you will be amazed by this production,” he said. “There is so much incredible talent in this show. It is such a wonderful story about optimism and always to believe.”
Performances of Annie Jr. will be held in the Kennedy auditorium on Friday, Jan. 29 and Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at the door.
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