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