In a unique turn around, 25 years after a production of "Annie" first hit the local stage, some of its stars are back either reviving their original role or taking on a new one.
The Altoona Community Theatre will present "Annie" - the story of a girl living in an orphanage who is trying to find her parents at the height of The Great Depression in 1933 and ends up winning the fatherly heart of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks - beginning Thursday at the Mishler Theatre.
"I'm trying to stay true to the original book and the original Broadway mounting of the production because there's so many very familiar parts to that show, and I'm kind of a stickler for authentic detail in the time period, as well," director Bryce Cossitor said. "But we're putting a fresh edge on it. There's a couple of interesting surprises that I'm not going to give up right now."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
In this scene from Altoona Community Theatre’s production of “Annie,” Grace (Laura Rhodes) introduces Annie (Felicia DeVorris) to Daddy Warbucks (Doug Rosenberry).
Cossitor of Altoona, said the show is near and dear to him because he played Oliver Warbucks in the 1988 production. He also played the character about 15 years ago in a production of the sequel "Annie Warbucks."
"So now I thought it was time to change roles this time around and do the behind the scenes part, so it's been very rewarding," he said.
Taking over the role of Warbucks this time around is Doug Rosenberry, 43, of Altoona.
If you go
What: "Annie," presented by Altoona Community Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22 and Nov. 23; 2 p.m. Nov. 23 and 24
Where: Mishler Theatre, 1208 12th Ave., Altoona
Tickets: $20 and $23 for adults and $15 for students. Prices include box office handling fees. Tickets are available at www.mishlertheatre.org, by calling 944-9434 or at the Mishler box office
"Annie" was the first show he helped direct 15 years ago at Altoona Area High School where he is an English teacher.
"I hope that people have a great time in watching the production," he said. "I know that we had a great deal of fun putting that on at the high school level."
Ericka Lear, 39, of Hollidaysburg played the role of the orphan "Pepper" 25 years ago. This time around, she is prepping to play Miss Hannigan, the grumpy matron of the orphanage.
"It's the first time I've ever been cast as a comedic villain so I love it," Lear said. "I'm looking really forward to it."
Gigi Campbell, 48, of Altoona, is taking on the same role she did 25 years ago, Lily St. Regis, the girlfriend of Miss Hannigan's brother, Rooster.
"I loved the show when I did it 25 years ago. We had a great cast. I enjoyed the experience. Karen Volpe was our director ... and she made it a great experience and I thought going into [the new production], I would try for Lily, but I also auditioned for anything really and Bryce seemed to think that was maybe still a fit," she said. "Some of the lines I'm delivering a little bit differently and the choreography is different."
Actors also feed off one another so that changes it up too, she said.
More than 80 girls auditioned to play the title character or an orphan, Cossitor said.
"We were very fortunate. We've got a really strong group of girls playing the orphans and Annie is doing a wonderful, wonderful job," Cossitor said. "She's a real trooper. It is a very grueling show for Annie because she's in almost every single scene. There's only a couple of spots where she gets a break. The rest of the time she's on the stage so that's a lot to ask of a young girl."
The production's Annie, Felicia DeVorris, 13, Altoona, who is in eighth grade at Grier School, Tyrone, is minding her pace along with them, though, he said.
"It's been pretty hard juggling my school work and my preparation for Annie, but my teachers at Grier, they're understanding, and the director, the choreographer, they're terrific teachers and they've helped me a lot," Felicia said.
"Annie" is a huge production, Cossitor said.
The production includes about 50 cast members, including 12 orphans, the title character and a dog, and a number of sets and scene changes, he said.
"On one hand it's challenging. On the other hand it's very exhilarating to try to put all that together," he said. "It's like fitting a giant puzzle together sometimes to make it all work well."
And those pieces are falling into place.
"The show's coming along beautifully," he said. "I'm really excited to see it on the stage."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.