Set in a lonely orphanage, Annie and the gang sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” during the first scene of the show. Annie no. 1, center, is played by fourth-grader Riley White. (Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Set in a lonely orphanage, Annie and the gang sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” during the first scene of the show. Annie no. 1, center, is played by fourth-grader Riley White. (Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Annie Jr. allowing students to shine

Note: Due to the recent snowy weather, the Coupeville Elementary Drama Club will be moving the performance of Annie Jr. to Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 12 noon. It was originally scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9.

Belting out in a loud, carrying voice that’s impressive for a fourth grader, Riley White’s voice fills the stage with the classic, catchy tune, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar — that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.”

Riley and her castmates have rehearsed twice a week since the start of the new year, working to perfect their dance moves, singing voices and nail their lines for the upcoming musical Annie Jr., which will be showing in February at the Coupeville Middle School Performing Arts Center.

On Monday afternoon, the fourth and fifth graders practiced for over an hour, with the goal of being able to run through the rehearsal without a script.

There were only a few hiccups.

“What if that happens in the play?” play director and drama advisor Stephanie “Lady” Gebhard gently asked the cast after someone forgot their line.

“We work around it?” one boy, George Spear, responded.

As for Gebhard, she may have taken the old phrase “break a leg” a little too literally — she broke her femur in a recent sledding accident. But, of course, the show is going on, thanks to extra help from parents.

Gebhard, a third-grade teacher, started the drama club over 15 years ago.

“It’s a hard job. It takes a ton of hours but I love the drama club so much,” she said.

And it’s proved popular. At one point the club had more than 100 student members, she said. It once consisted of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students, but they had to cut out third graders due to the growing membership.

Her favorite part of running drama club is seeing the kids “become someone else” when they get on stage.

“You get to see kids shine who don’t always in other places…but they find their place to shine when they get up there,” she said.

After auditions in December, the journey began for the roughly 40 cast members.

With 76 pages, memorizing the musical script book is no small feat for the elementary students. The character Annie alone has more than 100 lines, Gebhard said.

For that reason, Gebhard split the cast into two groups. The young actors switch places during intermission.

Riley, who plays the first half Annie, has been “rockin’ her part” and projecting her voice very well, Gebhard said.

Auditioning tryouts didn’t faze fifth grader Chase Anderson, who plays President Franklin Roosevelt.

Anderson said he wasn’t nervous.

“It’s been going pretty good,” Daddy Warbucks, aka fifth grader George Spear, said about rehearsals. He was excited to be a main character.

Her favorite part of being in the show is the friendly atmosphere, fifth-grader Mayleen Weatherford said.

“Everyone is so nice and welcoming.”

And that extends to the audience — Gebhard and her 40 drama students welcome the public to their show as well.

The auditorium can seat about 375 people, and for student plays, “we fill it,” Gebhard said.

  • Performances are Feb. 8-9. The shows are 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb.8 and at noon on Saturday, Feb. 9. By donation. Performances are at Coupeville Middle School Performing Arts Center.
Fifth-grader Sydney Wallace, who plays Annie no. 2, stretches out her arm out wide as she practices her lines.

Fifth-grader Sydney Wallace, who plays Annie no. 2, stretches out her arm out wide as she practices her lines.

Miss Hannigan no. 1, fifth-grader Jordaya Dowell, sings her part on stage.

Miss Hannigan no. 1, fifth-grader Jordaya Dowell, sings her part on stage.

President Roosevelt, in chair, played by Chase Anderson, shows up to report that Annie’s parents have died and imposters were trying to adopt her for the money. n

President Roosevelt, in chair, played by Chase Anderson, shows up to report that Annie’s parents have died and imposters were trying to adopt her for the money. n

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