Just in time to warm Lawrence residents’ hearts for the holidays, Theatre Lawrence is presenting the classic Broadway musical “Annie,” opening at 7:30 p.m., Friday, at 1501 New Hampshire Street.
Director Charles Goolsby says the musical fits perfectly with the season.
“It takes place at Christmas, so it’s a good fit for the schedule that way,” he says. “It’s also a good fit for families to get out and do something over the holidays. We’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but because of national tours it hasn’t been available.”
Goolsby, who has directed “Annie” on five separate occasions, says the audience should expect a high-quality production, augmented by the interesting space that makes up the Theatre Lawrence location.
“The community theater in Lawrence is somewhat unique in the that the facility makes it different. It’s that double-sided thing. They [the audience] come into a building that’s an old church, they maybe don’t expect a quality performance, and then they see people doing things they never thought they could do. I think that’s one of the interesting things is that people come in to see our shows and they’re surprised by the high level of quality, because it is community theater.”
Show promoter and cast member John Phythyon says the fact the show is so well-known and diverse should appeal to the audience.
“There’s a whole lot of entertainment. I think everybody knows the show; there are so many songs everyone knows. There’s a lot of singing, a lot of dancing, a lot of humor. It’s really great for kids of all ages, families and that sort of thing.”
Phythyon says the themes of warmth and happiness running throughout the play are refreshing.
“This is one of those great holiday shows,” he says. “The character of Annie is just full of hope and optimism, despite all of these horrible financial things going on.”
Goolsby agrees, noting the musical, which takes place during the Great Depression, deals with many of the same types of struggles facing the world today, but addresses them with hope.
“The show was written in 1976, when the country was going through similar issues. The country was in this sort of weird place back then when it came out, and it was a hit.”
Dean Bevan, who plays the role of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the production, says audiences should expect lots of good cheer and laughter.
“It’s a funny show,” he says. “It has very frequent comic moments and really funny lines. Nobody should miss those, and I don’t think anyone will. They’re right there and they keep coming.”
Bevan says the production is extremely well-cast and the musical is particularly well-written.
“It’s witty, it’s funny. I shy away from the word heart-warming, but it really is. Almost all of the characters in the play are sympathetic characters, with a few big exceptions. And, well, they’re comic-strip wicked. They’re so very well played that you just enjoy the –– the wickedness, I guess.”
Bevan also says the singing and dancing in the production are top notch.
“The audience can expect really good vocal performances in several ways. Both in solos by Annie and Warbucks, but also exceptionally good ensemble singing by the chorus.”
Overall, Bevan thinks the play is an ideal performance for the holidays.
“I would say, in a way, it’s a perfect holiday musical, both because it is upbeat and because it ends with a Christmas celebration. But it’s different from some of the things we’ve done in recent years because it’s not solely focused on the idea of the Christmas holiday itself.”
In the spirit of the holidays and giving, Phythyon says the audience is encouraged to bring donations for the Lawrence Humane Society to the Saturday afternoon performance.
“We’re accepting blankets and cleaning supplies at the show. Bring things you’d like to donate to the animal shelter. We’re also going to have a few dogs for the matinee performance, if people show up early before the show.
There will be a chance to meet with the dogs from the shelter from 1-2 p.m., prior to the show.