Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 5:38 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Youth theater program turns 'Annie' to 'Andy'

Staff Writer

In summer the big red barn of Pier One Theatre on the Homer Spit booms with enthusiastic laughter as young actors learn their craft at youth theater camps. When ice fills the harbor and a chill winter breeze blows, the building shuts down for the season. That doesn't mean theater has to stop — including youth theater.

Since February, under the Musical Theatre Program, a collaboration between the Homer Council on the Arts and Pier One Theatre, adult and young actors have been learning musical performance skills. Friday, a cast of 27 youth and 11 adults show off what they learned with "Andy." The musical shows Saturday and Sunday and continues next weekend.


Photo by Michael Armstrong

The cast of "Andy" sing "It's the Hard-Knock Life."

Though the performance should please theater fans, the Musical Theater Program's intent is to give elementary and middle school age youth musical performance and theater opportunities.

"'Andy' is the tool being used," said HCOA director Gail Edgerly.

If the plot of a mop-haired orphan trying to find a home seems familiar, that's because "Andy" is really the musical "Annie," with the gender of the lead role changed to fit the boy playing the part, Falcom Greear. At age 13, Greear already has been wowing Homer audiences with his singing. He's performed in two "On the Wing" Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival concerts and in a solo concert in the fall of 2010.

"With such a gifted voice, it needed to be showcased," said "Andy" director Brenda Dolma.

Greear also doesn't wear the traditional curly red hair of the role.

"We're just going to go with his beautiful, brown curly locks," Dolma said.

The Musical Theatre Program came about from Pier One Theatre director Lance Petersen's desire to make theater year-round in Homer. Dolma, a retired school teacher, has run "TheatreShakes," a theater program using the plays of William Shakespeare, the past two falls. High school age students could perform in musicals through Homer High School's annual spring musical, but younger students lacked musical theater opportunities.

HCOA also runs a performing arts program for new performers like Greear called the Emerging Performers Program. This year, the Emerging Performers Program was integrated into the Musical Theatre Program to gives youth more musical opportunities.

"This was really targeting an after-school age group that hadn't had the opportunity to experience musical theater," Dolma said.

For youth ages 8 to eighth grade, the Musical Theatre Program adds a new component: adult mentors. With the idea of producing "Annie," now known as "Andy," the program recruited adults to play older roles like the mean orphanage director Miss Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks, played by Michael McKinney, sporting a distinguished chrome-dome. Christa Collier plays Miss Hannigan, a role she dives into with undisguised glee. She doesn't just chew the scenery — she spits it out and makes it a six-course meal.

With the large cast of young roles and some solid adult roles, "Annie" works well for the Musical Theatre Program idea.

"There are both youth and adult cast members, so adults have additional roles as mentors," said Edgerly.

Having adults working closely with young actors proved to be a learning experience, Dolma said.

"It's a wonderful relationship. It's not one adult who's bossing you around," she said. "There's an adult you can go to."

Although "Andy" had an audition, it was only to decide who would play which roles. Everyone in the Musical Theatre Program gets to be on stage. Most of the young people play orphans, with some lines split among actors to give as many as possible a speaking — or barking, in the case of the dog Sandy — role.

Rehearsals this week worked on keeping the large group of young actors focused. Dolma and choreographer Breezy Berryman taught them a vital part of theater: what to do when not speaking and how to move to support other actors. By the end of rehearsals on Monday, they'd begun to pull it together. If it looked a little rough, well, they are tough-luck orphans.

Pier One Theatre is an old uninsulated city warehouse, so even in high summer it can get a bit chilly. May's frosty temperatures made the theater downright cold.

"It was like working in an orphanage in the 1930s," Dolma said, joking. "It's a little method acting."

In rehearsals on Monday, Greear sang the musical's signature tune, "Tomorrow." On stage with only Jackson Sarber as Sandy, the other actors sat in the back of the theater, fidgeting a bit. When Greear sang "The sun will come out tomorrow," the children fell silent, and when he finished the song, they broke out in spontaneous applause.

"Whoever comes will be delighted with our young people," Dolma said. "They've worked so hard."

The Musical Theatre Program received funding and support from Wells Fargo Bank and the Alaska Association of School Boards Initiative for Community Engagement.

Homer resident Donna Rae Faulkner, who used to manage the Initiative for Community Engagement, helped with the Musical Theatre Program. The Homer Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts also supported the Musical Theatre Program.

For video clips of rehearsals, visit www.homernews.com.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael. armstrong@homernews.com.


7 p.m. Friday, Saturday3 p.m. Sunday7 p.m. May 24, 25, 26, 27


Pier One Theatre on the Homer Spit


All tickets $10 at The Homer Bookstore, Homer Council on the Arts and at the door. For reservations call 235-7333


Composer: Charles Strouse

Lyricist: Martin Charnin

Librettist: Thomas Meehan

Director: Brenda Dolma

Musical director: JulieAnn Smith

Choreography: Breezy Berryman

Aspen Etzwiler Orphan Tina

Falcom Greear Andy

Morgan Brown Taylor

Olivia Glasman Tessie

Liam James Ken

Vianne Sarber Molly

Clara Stading Orphan Jessie

Lillian Sweeney Orphan Rosa

Maya Kelly May

Simon Lopez Keith

Sophie Morin Orphan Angel

Elizabeth Prescott Pepper

Brita Restad Orphan Kirera

Fiona Rich Orphan Shyanne

Jackson Sarber Sandy

Eleanor Sweeney Orphan Ruby

Emmet Wilkinson Max ( twin)

Ruby Allen July

Roan Rediske Orphan Kyle, Apple Seller

Madilynne Elkington June

Cassidy Wylde Orphan Finney

Rowyn Cunningham Dog Catcher

Marina Greear Moon

Halen Hernandez Duffy

Kaylynn Bunnell Buffy

Nolan Bunting Lt. Ward

Jessica Williams Grace Farrell

Margaret Quarton Miss Drake

Peter Norton Rooster

Maura Gibson Lily St Regis

Sierra Smith Annette

Kate Rich Cecile

Robin McCallistar Mrs. Greer

Tim Quinn Mr. Bundles

Donna Ridener Mrs. Pugh

Michael McKinney Daddy Warbucks

Christa Collier Miss Hanningan