Pictured are:

Laura (left) plays July, the oldest and biggest of the orphans with a well-developed comic sense, and who was named for the month she arrived at the orphanage as a baby.

Lynley plays Pepper, the bully in the orphanage, with a tough sense of mind, and good sense of power.

Katy plays Tessie, a young Marilyn Monroe, who always has a lipstick or mirror on hand, and never can decide what to do with her hair.

Sarah (right) plays Duffy, who can do a cartwheel, leap, or pliť with ease, and never takes off her old ballet slippers, that are anything but beautiful. 



  December 05, 2003    
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be seen
Theater in the Grove's "Annie" is like you've never seen it


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 cruel.

"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 each other."

The play called for likeable, sympathetic actors in the orphan's roles, McLaine said, something that made casting a newcomer in the lead an obvious choice.

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 "Annie."

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 York City.

"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 of people."

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 seven years.

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."

Leading actors 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.




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