Lake Norman & Mooresville

Huntersville’s Long Creek Elementary students put ‘Annie Kids’ on stage

Ziare Taylor, left, playing Annie, talks to Bryson Morrow, right, playing police lieutenant Ward, during the rehearsal for “Annie Kids” at Long Creek Elementary School on March 16.
Ziare Taylor, left, playing Annie, talks to Bryson Morrow, right, playing police lieutenant Ward, during the rehearsal for “Annie Kids” at Long Creek Elementary School on March 16. MARTY PRICE

Nine-year-old Ziare Taylor looked at a piece of paper for help as she read her lines during rehearsal for her first speaking part – the lead role of Annie in the musical “Annie Kids.”

But knowing the words to all the songs, she didn’t need the paper when it came time to sing. Tucking it into the top of her skirt, she beamed with confidence as she began to sing “Maybe.”

It’s great to be the lead in the play, Ziare said. “You have a lot more lines, and you are on the stage the whole time. You really get to shine.”

For the past six years, music teacher Beth Gommel, first-grade teacher Jessica Alston and art teacher Donald Buzzee have been organizing annual musicals at Long Creek Elementary School in Huntersville.

The three agreed the timing of the release of the new movie “Annie” in December would make this the year to do “Annie Kids,” a child-friendly version of the musical. The main cast are members of the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade honors choir.

“This is a child’s production, so we are going to add a lot of color to add more life to the stage,” to help keep the younger ones engaged, said Buzzee.

With a cast of 95 students, Gommel said, there will be 65 orphans in the production, based on the original “Annie,” set in the 1930s.

“It is a shortened version of the show, so it’s really good for younger kids, because it is only 45 minutes long. Our Annie isn’t going to have a red wig. Some of the things will look more updated, but the costumes and everything will be as close to the period as we can make them,” said Gommel.

Hopewell High School is allowing the group to use its stage for almost a week, as rehearsals will be held on Monday and Tuesday before the Thursday-Saturday performances. The show will be presented March 26 and 27.

In previous years they have sold out on Friday nights, so this year they added a show on Saturday, March 28, “So everybody will have a chance to see it,” she said.

Directing the cast through the choreography as they sang the songs and practiced the talking scenes, Gommel said, “You have your back to the audience.” A phrase she would repeat several times, as she reminded the actors they were on a stage, playing to an audience who would like to see their faces.

As the group finished the rehearsal, they formed a dancing line of orphans, high kicking in sync, with their arms interlocked, looking just like a professional dance troupe.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at martyprice53@gmail.com

Want to go?

“Annie Kids” will be held 7 p.m. March 26-27 and 3 p.m. March 28 at Hopewell High School, 11530 Beatties Ford Road, Huntersville. Tickets are $2 each and can be purchased in advance 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the front office of Long Creek Elementary School, 9213-A Beatties Ford Road in Huntersville. Tickets will be available at the door until they sell out.

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