The cast of Annie imparts a message of optimism

The+cast+and+crew+of+Annie+seamlessly+fused+virtual+and+in-person+scenes+while+performing+this+year%27s+musical.+

Claire Moore '22

The cast and crew of Annie seamlessly fused virtual and in-person scenes while performing this year’s musical.

Members of the Sacred Heart Greenwich Theatre Department performed the musical Annie April 10 at 7 p.m. and April 11 at 3 p.m. through a virtual streaming platform.  In compliance with COVID-19 protocols, the cast and crew of Annie pre-recorded all scenes and musical numbers, as opposed to performing the show live at Sacred Heart.  The cast of Annie wants the optimistic story to bring a message of hope to challenging times. 

Mr. Harold Gray created a popular comic strip known as Little Orphan Annie in 1924 that inspired the classic musical, according to playbill.com.  As prominent figures within the arts industry, Mr. Martin Charnin, Mr. Charles Strouse, and Mr. Thomas Meehan collaborated to reconstruct the written pages into a musical comedy that debuted on Broadway in 1977.  Following its successful theatre run, Columbia Pictures produced a 1982 film version of AnnieThe musical remains one of the most widely-known and influential productions of the twentieth century. 

The cast of Annie included both historical context and optimism through the presidential cabinet’s rendition of “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.”  Claire Moore ’22

The story takes place in the Great Depression and follows the eponymous young orphan, Annie, played by junior Charlotte Burchetta, during her journey from an orphanage to a luxurious home with Sir Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, portrayed by senior Piper Gilbert.  Additional principal characters included Ms. Grace Farrell, Daddy Warbucks’s assistant, and Miss Agatha Hannigan, the headmistress of Annie’s orphanage, performed by juniors Zoe Young and Isabel Lehrman, respectively.     

Charlotte reflected on what she learned from Annie’s character and what she thinks audiences can take away from this year’s musical production.  She hopes viewers will grasp that although Annie’s optimism may seem childish, it is instead a sign of deep emotional intelligence and is especially pertinent in today’s unprecedented circumstances. 

“As I learned more about Annie, I realized that she truly sees all the sorrow and injustice around her and it is in spite of it that she continues to hope,” Charlotte said.  “I think this is very admirable, especially in the midst of a pandemic.  While she is profoundly emotionally intelligent, Annie is still a child, so it was really fun for me to communicate the moments when she acts silly, feels afraid, her carefree moments, curiosity, and when she is just a little girl trying to find her way in the world while helping as many people as she can along the way.  I love that playing Annie involved operating with such a distinct emotional range and I truly discovered the impact a little optimism can have.”

The cast and crew of Annie creatively adapted to numerous COVID-19 restrictions under the guidance of Miss Michaela Gorman ‘05, Upper School Drama Teacher and Director of Drama Productions.  They shot select scenes of the musical outdoors and in person, while filming others virtually over Zoom with each student recording with their own laptop to ensure quality.  This method of production introduced adjustments surrounding blocking, acting style, and choreography.  In addition, cast members pre-recorded all musical numbers with the help of Mr. Sean Lowery, Director of Upper and Middle School Orchestra and Upper School Chorus Teacher, who synthesized all the individual tracks into cohesive songs.  Miss Gorman and Miss Danielle Gennaro ’05, Bell Choir Director, edited each scene together in order to form the complete musical production. 

Miss Gorman commended the Sacred Heart Theatre Department for both its adaptability and resilience despite challenges that have arisen throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This year, I am so proud of the fact that we were able to mount two full-scale productions in spite of the challenging circumstances,” Miss Gorman said.  “This has obviously been such a difficult year for the performing arts all over the world, and my goal at the outset was just to provide our theatre students with the opportunity to keep learning, growing, and working together to tell stories, even if the process had to change on a fundamental level.  The students in this program are just constantly exceeding my expectations, no matter how high I set the bar.  They could have easily been frustrated or disappointed time and time again, and instead, they uplifted one another and our program during a pandemic.  They are so resilient, so community-focused, so creative, and so dedicated.  I am so, so incredibly proud of them, the work they do, and the way in which they do it.”

The official performance of Annie interspersed the Zoom and in-person scenes throughout the production.  Most musical numbers, such as “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Easy Street,” occurred in person with socially distanced choreography.  Freshman Emilia Bernal, who portrayed Tessie, Mr. Harold Ickes, and Ms. Connie Boylan, shared how COVID-19 restrictions changed certain aspects of theatre, yet the camaraderie and commitment remained strong within the cast of Annie. 

The students portraying the orphans in Annie sang the classic “It’s a Hard Knock Life” both over Zoom and in person.  Claire Moore ’22

“I fell in love with theatre and performing because of the release I feel on the stage,” Emilia said.  “The best part for me is being able to express myself in such a welcoming and friendly community.  Another aspect of theatre that I love is spending time with my friends who share the same interests as me and being able to work together to create something wonderful.  These parts of the theatre have shifted under COVID-19 regulations because the time I spend with my friends at rehearsal was mostly over Zoom.  Although the physical circumstances shifted, everyone shared the same goal: to make the best out of the situation we are in.  Ultimately, acceptance was a huge theme for our production this year, and we aimed to do the best that we could.”

Miss Gorman commented on Annie’s continued relevance, specifically how she hopes the idea of finding comfort and connection amidst difficult times will impart optimism upon audiences.  She also thanked the cast and crew for their enduring joy throughout the entirety of the production.

Annie is set in 1933, several years into the Great Depression,” Miss Gorman said.  “We see Hoovervilles, we see hardship and desperation, we see many harsh realities within the world of the show, but we also see hope for a better tomorrow.  That resonated with me this year because I feel like it echoes so many of the beautiful things I am seeing right now.  I would look at students sitting in a Zoom room for rehearsal after hours of classes, who were still beaming and laughing and forging connections because they were determined to tell this story.  I know that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow” might seem like an overly sentimental or sugary-sweet message on the surface, but that reminder does not feel that way to me right now.  It feels important.  I think it is always good to remember that choosing hope can be a very brave choice.”

Featured Image by Claire Moore ’22