Junior high actors hit the stage in tale of rags-to-riches

Brady Stewart and Brooke Larkin finish a scene between Oliver Warbucks and Annie. Photo by Wendi Reardon Price
Brady Stewart and Brooke Larkin finish a scene between Oliver Warbucks and Annie. Photo by Wendi Reardon Price

BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Staff Writer
The sun will come out next week on the Clarkston Junior High School Performing Arts Center stage as the drama club presents the musical “Annie, Jr.”
The story centers around Annie, played by Brooke Larkin, who is an 11-year-old at the Municipal Girls Orphanage who has one mission.
“She really just wants to find her parents,” said Larkin. “She believes they are still out there. It is her one desire to have parents and be like a normal kid.”
“She has this hope her parents will come back for here and all the orphans are jealous,” said Julia Ruggirello, who plays Miss Hannigan, head of the orphanage and doesn’t want Annie to find a home.
“I am really rude to them and make them do all this really hard work,” Ruggirello said about her character. “They have really rough lives and not a lot of hope.”
Then, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a wealthy business man, played by Brady Stewart, enters the picture looking for an orphan to stay with him during the holidays. His assistant Grace, played by Chloe Chiappelli, picks out Annie.
“I don’t want it to be Annie because obviously I am jealous she gets to live with a millionaire,” said Ruggirello. “But she does get picked and Mr. Warbucks ends up wanting to adopt her. My accomplice Rooster and Lily (played by Jacob Szettella and Samantha Stanek) try to help stop the adoption by pretending to be her real parents.”
When Larkin was cast as Annie it was a shock and at first she didn’t believe it.
“I don’t have classical training for singing,” she said. “I am not in choir. I am in an acting class in school and my teacher said ‘why don’t you go ahead and try out for fun.'”
She did and when she walked out her friend said “Brooke, you’re Annie.”
“It’s exciting,” she smiled. “It’s my first ever musical or major experience. It’s a great experience.”
It was the first time for Ruggirello playing a villain.
“I usually play good guys,” she said. “I was really excited when I was cast Miss Hannigan. A lot of the orphans are my friends so I have a good time being mean to them. It’s really nice to try something new. I like being a villain. It’s pretty cool.”
Ruggirello added at first it was hard to get into the role, but it became easier once she saw her costume and received her whistle.
“I got really excited,” she smiled, holding up her whistle. “It’s going to be fun.”
Stewart is used to playing comedic characters.
“I really had to take on this new serious persona,” he said about Warbucks. “He’s rich and at first he is kind of stale and doesn’t care about anybody but himself. Strict, bossy and serious. It was cool to take on a new character I haven’t done before.”
Olivia Torres, part of the backstage crew, added the sets are amazing as well including the orphanage which was her favorite. Plus, she said the beds were fun to paint.
“There are some interesting props,” she said. “I like all the surprises we have.”
The cast invites the community to come out and see the show.
“It’s a show everybody can enjoy,” Ruggirello said. “Kids will like it, adults will like it since they grew up with it. It’s really fun. It will give everyone a laugh at times. The music is cool.”
“We have been working very hard,” Larkin added. “The cast is great and great people. I think the community would like to come to have a laugh. There’s a little bit of everything – singing, acting, dancing.”
Annie, Jr. is at CJH Performing Arts Center, Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $8 each.