‘An­nie’ at Co­hoes Mu­sic Hall through Sun­day

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - By Bob Goepfert For tick­ets call (518) 4340776 or go to park­play­house.com/an­nie

CO­HOES, N.Y. >> The pref­er­ence of the­ater au­di­ences dur­ing the hol­i­days are plays that are heart­warm­ing.

This helps ex­plain why the mu­si­cal “An­nie” is, through­out the coun­try, one of the most pop­u­lar mu­si­cals to be pro­duced dur­ing the months of Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. It doesn’t hurt that the show ends with the cast sing­ing “A New Deal for Christ­mas,” with ev­ery­one stand­ing around a Christ­mas tree, usu­ally with snowflakes fall­ing.

Ashley-Si­mone Kirch­ner, the chore­og­ra­pher of the Play­house Stage pro­duc­tion of “An­nie,” which is at Co­hoes Mu­sic Hall through Sun­day, agrees, say­ing, “It’s im­pos­si­ble to leave the the­ater with­out be­ing in the Christ­mas spirit.”

She goes on to say that the hol­i­day joy the work de­liv­ers is not only be­cause of the fi­nal num­ber. She points out the show pre­miered in 1977, and for more than 40 years has been mak­ing au­di­ences feel good. That has a lot to do with hav­ing an adorable, in­de­pen­dent and plucky 8 year old girl as the lead. And with songs like “To­mor­row” and the en­sem­ble num­ber “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “An­nie” is a dif­fi­cult show not to like.

Kirch­ner, who is also the Di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, says she be­lieves the Play­house pro­duc­tion has a se­cret weapon that will el­e­vate the feel­good na­ture of the show. Sound­ing in­cred­i­bly proud, she says, “From top to bot­tom ev­ery role is played by a stu­dent from our train­ing pro­gram.” Af­ter a pause, she adds, “And they are not only re­ally, re­ally good, they are hav­ing the time of their life.”

One of the things that im­presses Kirch­ner is the ded­i­ca­tion and ca­ma­raderie of the cast. “An­nie” is be­ing of­fered to the pub­lic the week be­fore Christ­mas. Since re­hearsals started in Novem­ber, that means be­ing in the show im­posed on their Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day as well. One would think that the young per­form­ers would re­sent the tim­ing and, at the very least, find it an in­con­ve­nience.

“Just the op­po­site,” says Kirch­ner. “They love be­ing here, they love the show and they love each other. There is no place they’d rather be and no one they’d rather be with. They are like fam­ily.”

This, she in­sists, will pro­vide a bet­ter show. She makes the valid point that when per­form­ers are in love with the ma­te­rial, and each other, it’s con­ta­gious. It usu­ally ex­tends to the au­di­ence who catch the en­thu­si­asm.

The per­former’s at­ti­tude, she says, comes from their ded­i­ca­tion to the art form and their train­ing. Play­house Stage is the win­ter pro­duc­ing com­pany of Park Play­house, which has been train­ing area youths for decades. They of­fer classes in the­ater and dance geared for all ages, with most stu­dents fall­ing in the 8-18 range. For the older and more ad­vanced stu­dents, they en­ter “pre-pro­fes­sional train­ing.” They even have a class ti­tled Au­di­tion Tech­niques. “We are pre­par­ing area stu­dents for pro­fes­sional the­ater, if they so de­sire,” she says.

She quickly points out that the classes and the shows per­formed by stu­dents are not only for those who want to be pro­fes­sional en­ter­tain­ers. “We hold open au­di­tions for ev­ery show,” she says. For ‘An­nie’ we had over 100 kids come out.” More than 40 were cast. This is a big show, pre­sented on a small stage.

Kirch­ner says the value of the classes are many. “The in­tan­gi­ble qual­i­ties they get from study­ing the­ater or dance helps with poise, con­fi­dence and self­im­age. It can be life-chang­ing. Our goal is to pre­pare our stu­dents for wher­ever their paths take them.”

This week the stu­dents, who come from al­most ev­ery com­mu­nity in the area, have found their path has taken them to Co­hoes Mu­sic Hall where “An­nie” is per­formed 7 p.m. evenings through Satur­day and 2 p.m. Satur­day and Sun­day

PHOTO PRO­VIDED

The Play­house Stage pro­duc­tion of “An­nie” is at Co­hoes Mu­sic Hall through Sun­day.

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