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Center Stage: Bet your bottom dollar on island production of classic musical

By Staff | Nov 26, 2014

“Leapin’ lizards, Daddy Warbucks,” that little red-headed orphan Annie, her dog Sandy and a whole bunch of little orphan kids had the captivated audience leaping up from their seats and cheering “Annie,” the fall musical comedy production at the Sanibel School for the last two weeks.

To dislike this delectable version of “Annie” would be the same as disliking baseball, peanutbutter, friendly furry pooches, and honestly cute kids.

This show is an intensely likeable musical when it is in the hands of a good director (like Sanibel School’s own Joseph Angelo). Director Angelo has banished that terminal case of the “cutes” usual for Annie and the other orphans. Instead replacing that gooey, sentimental, cutesy-kid nonsense with effective, bold style and high spirits which maintain the show’s simple sincerity.

Under Angleo’s guidance, this Annie (Daisy Arensman) delivers every song and plays every scene with candor that comes from the heart, not from how to read a line to zing the audience. Arensman is a neat little actress who can hold her own in the singing department too.

As a matter of fact all the orphan kids were equally as winning. Having said that, I’m going to name each one because each of these young people created an individual character and a personality to match:

Orphans: for Cast ll

  • Molly Taylor Fox
  • Pepper – McKenna Sprecher
  • Duffy – Katelyn Ryan
  • Kate – Caroline Holtz
  • Tessie Caitlin McCallion
  • July – Rebecca Congress

They all tackled their songs, dances and dialogue with spunk, verve and attitude.

Jacob Lemmon as Daddy Warbucks did credit to the role, and found a new speaking voice that seemed to come from a place deep in his gut section. Gabby Miltner — as the blowzy, slightly maniacal orphanage’s headmistress Miss Hannigan — had enough sleaze and savvy to make this character both dislikeable and funny at the same time. Neat acting to have an audience that wants to boo you and laugh at the same time.

I could say the same for her two sidekicks Rooster Hannigan (Will Strange) as the headmistresses’ shady, wise guy, brother, and his main squeeze, a blond bombshell, with the straight from New Jersey accent Lily St. Regis (awesomely portrayed by Kristen Dunavant).

Let me also give high grades to the rest of this hardworking cast (putting in hours of work to make this show happen). Kudos to the entire Cast ll, the talented performer’s names are:

  • Samantha Strickland playing Grace Farrell (Warbucks personal secretary),
  • Franklin Roosevelt Cameron Dolly plus playing the roles of Dog Catcher/Bert Healy/Servant NYC
  • Apple Seller/Servant- Maria Heindl
  • Drake/Radio Announcer — Jake Mann
  • Mrs. Greer/NYC — Isabella Decosta
  • Mrs. Pugh/Policeman/Lt. Ward Savannah Nippa
  • Cecille/Orphan — May Babcock
  • Annette/Louise Howe — Sophia Tata
  • Bundles McClosky/ NYC/Servant — Graham Kupsaw
  • Plus- Sandy (the dog) a nameless, furry, fourlegged bundle of fluff, who was simply adorable, earning at least “4 Dog Yummy Stars.”

But really it is “Hats Off and Kudos” not only to director/producer Joseph Angelo who managed to pull together a magical production, but also to the many Sanibel School students who also put in over 200 hours as they painted sets, moved props, ran lights, videoed, stage managed, sold tickets, manned the concessions, and to their parents, who are the unseen workers behind the scenes.

Let all of us here on Sanibel realize what a tremendous lesson and gift this production is; first and foremost, our children are affirmed that they have gifts to offer the world at large, then as a creative team they learn how to work together; a mixed bag of folks, both youngsters and adults, are the glue that makes a creative endeavor become a reality.

It has always been my firm belief that the ARTS are of extreme importance as a learning experience, it is in this team/effort involvement that the reality of the statement we are all family, a tribe of humans, brought together and united to produce something good; something we all shared in creating, a lasting memory that we all helped to initiate.

Thank you one and all; I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the Sanibel School’s awesome production of “Annie.”

Now Hear This! There is a new community theater happening in Fort Myers at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers, named “Tellers Theatre Company” and newly formed in March of this year by DePaul University graduate David Monagas (producing, artistic, director).

Monagas has an interesting and provocative mission statement: “Tellers Theatre Company is a community of Theatre Artists who seek to ignite social dialogue and create a new way of experiencing art through a collaboration of theatre, music, dance and celebration. We create, produce and curate works that challenge the audience and artist perspective. Theatre performances were made to give something back to the community. They were made to educate and inform the local population about what was going on in their surroundings. People would come and watch stories being told about Gods and help them find a better way to live and how to look at the world. It was in the theater where man, woman and child could go and feel like they were a part of something that was larger than them.”

Tellers Theatre Company is here to share in that tradition. To give back to the community around us and share our talents with those who want to experience what we have to share. We tell stories; stories, which will hopefully entice and provoke thought and emotion from all who share in them. We say share because of the plays we perform; the stories being told are not for those who are telling the stories, but for those who are there to witness; to be part of and share in them.

“Rashamon” was the first story told and performed by this newly formed company in September; their second endeavor was an equally compelling performance, Jason Robert Brown’s Drama Desk award-winner “The Last Five Years.” This is an emotionally powerful intimate musical about two New Yorkers in their 20s who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The novelty of the show is in the structure of the woman Cathy (portrayed by gifted, Asia Danielle Johnson), who tells her story backward chronologically while Jamie (brilliantly played by a truly fine local actor and singer Trevor Beauvois-Kinney) is telling his tale forward chronologically; the two characters only get into sync together once in the middle of the play, at their wedding. The third member of this interesting well-written musical play is the All Important Musical Accompanist, prizewinning pianist Peter Fancovic.

Let me simply state here and now that this performance of “The Last Five Years” completely bowled me over. It was proof positive that Tellers Theatre Company totally fulfilled their mission statement; this was a thought-provoking yet thoroughly captivating evening of live theater.

If you missed these performances, watch for the next two and different offerings given later in 2015 by this wonderful newly formed community theatre group.

There will be two stories: “Blackbird” by David Harrower and “Symposium” by David Monagas and the Tellers Theatre Company Ensemble. I’ll let you know these performance dates when they are firm.

Tellers Theatre Company is as 13411 Shire Lane, Fort Myers.