By Lee Douglas
Photo by Lee Douglas
Theatre in the Grove
will bring a fresh rendition of the play "Annie" to town this
week, directed by newcomer Erin McLaine.
"ĎAnnie'sí been seen
many times by many people for many years, about 25 to be
exact, and it's been overdone," McLaine said. "So what we did
here in Forest Grove is we took a good look at the story and
we kept the skeleton of the play but we decided to play with
some of the themes and gave it a bit of flair."
That flair includes
punchier choreography and a greater commitment to the play's
central theme of love.
Viewers will also see
the play's political overtures, often omitted from the
original script. Capitalizing on Depression-era themes of
homelessness and poor governance, "Annie" tracks a single
orphan who finds love and hope in a world turned otherwise
"The story is about
love and what happens when we don't have love," McLaine said.
"We really tried to follow the journeys of these characters.
They start out alone and cold and we get to watch them find
The play called for
likeable, sympathetic actors in the orphan's roles, McLaine
said, something that made casting a newcomer in the lead an
After two days of
auditioning and several call-backs, 9-year-old Veronika Kiss
of Banks was cast in the lead. A talented young actress with a
stunning voice, Kiss brings real life drama to the role of
The role is Kiss's
first community theater production and a lucky strike for
viewers eager to glimpse new talent. It is also a lucky break
for McLaine, she said.
"It's what I was
looking for, kids who were believable," she said.
Eager to avoid
"obnoxious kids belting out songs," McLaine cast sincere
actors in the roles of the orphans to subdue the overdone
portions of the play.
"I was really careful
to find kids who were more real," she said.
The result is a
versatile cast of 32 actors, 12 of them children, filling a
sparse stage with movement, dialogue and music.
"Most of our actors
play several roles in the show except our leads so it's really
an ensemble cast," said stage manager Sabrina Cayne. "There
probably isn't 10 minutes in the show that doesn't have any
music in it."
Costumes by Sharon
Cunningham are made to stand out on the dark set, Cayne added.
And according to McLaine, the onstage presence of the
characters aides the themes of lost love and loneliness in New
"Because we don't
have a big set and lots of money I decided to create the theme
of love with bodies," she said. "We created New York City out
The play is McLaine's
first with Theatre in the Grove. A new resident of Portland,
the director moved recently from Los Angeles and works with
the Northwest Children's Theater and has been directing for
McLaine said she's
enjoyed working with the actors in Forest Grove and hopes that
their version of "Annie" is a success.
"To come and see this
show is to come and see 'Annie' like you've never seen it,"
she said. "The people of Forest Grove have been the kindest
people in the world. They have been nothing but helpful and
they act better than some professional theaters I've worked
for and it's because they're doing it because they love it."
include Ron Hansen as Daddy Warbucks, Tamsyn Lynn as Grace,
Jeanine Stassens as Miss Hannigan, Casey Wood as Rooster, and
Lynn Romito as Lilly.
"Annie" opens Dec. 5
and runs for four weekends with shows on Friday, Saturday,
Sunday, and Monday at 8 p.m. Matinee performances will be held
Dec 14 and Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $11
adults, $8 students and seniors, and all performances are held
at Theatre in the Grove at 2028 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove.