LINDSBORG — Audiences familiar with the movie versions of “Annie” will notice a few differences in Broadway RFD’s upcoming production.
Eric Johnson, who is in his fourth year with Broadway RFD, is directing the musical based on the comic strip adventures of the titular red-headed orphan.
“Almost any musical is hard to put together because there are so many elements and they usually involve a pretty large cast,” Johnson said.
Add in the fact that Broadway RFD — now in its 59th season — is Kansas’ longest-running outdoor theater and the task of putting on a show becomes even more demanding.
“The only weather we’ve had to deal with is heat, so far,” Johnson said.
Broadway RFD alternates between shows that call for a cast mainly comprised of adults and shows that include multiple children.
The script for “Annie,” Johnson noted, is written for just six orphans besides Annie herself.
Johnson decided to expand the cast to include 16 orphans plus Annie, with an additional 23 teens and adults filling other roles.
“We’re doing community theater, so you want a bunch of kids on stage,” Johnson said.
Another change Johnson made to the show was the inclusion of orphan boys.
“There’s not any boys in the show, as it’s written,” Johnson said. “Boys are somewhat underrepresented in the arts.”
With a minor tweak to the lyrics of “Little Girls,” Johnson was able to give several young boys a chance to participate in “Annie.”
“It really didn’t take much at all to have orphan boys in the show,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t see waiting four years to let them have a main stage shot again.”
Participating in theater gives children the opportunity to step into the spotlight and build confidence.
“Kids are a focal point in this show,” Johnson said.
Community theater can offer families a chance to have multiple generations performing side by side.
In “Annie,” Leeya Linam will play the part of Annie, with her mother, Jessica Linam, portraying Miss Hannigan, the director of the orphanage.
“This is the first time they’ve been on stage together,” Johnson said.
For Johnson, seeing an actor go from memorizing lines and choreography to interacting in character is rewarding.
“When they got their bit down and you can tell the person behind the character is having fun...when they have that confidence and they’re having a blast, that’s my goal and my favorite part, to see that on stage,” Johnson said.
The audience support for Broadway RFD is a major part of its success, Johnson said.
Last year’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” drew in a total audience of around 2,500 people for its four performances.
“There’s just such a nice vibe in Lindsborg for the arts, and it’s one of the things that’s drawn me to Lindsborg and participating in different things up there.”
The cast of “Annie” also includes Brandt Busse as Daddy Warbucks, Dalana Dutton as Grace Farrell, JD Bowman as Rooster, Abby Rishel-Barnett as Lily St. Regis, Eric Lundstrom as Drake and Bert Healy, Tom Nelson as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Trea Yelton as Mr. Bundles, Jessica Ferguson as Judge Brandis and Layla Fleming as Molly.
“Annie” will be performed at 8:30 p.m. on July 20, 21, 27 and 28 in Swensson Park, 400 N. Main St. in Lindsborg. Tickets for adults are $12; tickets for children 12 and under are $5.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.broadwayrfd.org.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.