View Photos from Annie
Flashner and 43 of her classmates in grades 6-8 take the stage May 3-5 to present the classic musical story of an orphan struggling to find love and identity in New York during the Great Depression.
“Annie really is about perseverance and overcoming adversity,” says Tony Bender, the VMS Theater Director. “It teaches strong moral lessons about the value of hard work and the pitfalls that lie in the temptation to take shortcuts or cheat.” And this makes total sense at a school where the mission begins with the development of character.
Middle school students at VMS have the option to take part in a theatre class that meets nearly every day, just like core subjects such as math and language arts. Nearly half of the entire middle school chose to do so and they’ve been hard at work since September. Annie is the result.
“The goal of this class and of our theatre program is for students to connect with characters and build true empathy for the human struggle that affects everyone in some way,” says Bender. “The show also provided a means for students to explore a formative period in our country’s history and how theater shows can evolve over time. We spent a lot of time learning about the Great Depression and the history of Annie, a decades-old character who started out as a comic strip and became both an award-winning Broadway show and iconic movie.”
The story of Annie begins with its namesake character played by Camren Flashner. She’s stuck in the New York City Municipal Orphanage run by the unsympathetic and tyrannical Miss Hannigan who does her best to squash the spirits of the children in her charge. Annie’s optimism endures nonetheless bolstered by the hope that life will get better and that someone who loves her will come looking for her. “You know what’s fun about playing Annie?” says Flashner, “You never have to frown!”
Annie is brought to the home of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks for his annual Christmas party. Annie’s contagious enthusiasm inspires Warbucks to help her in the search for her parents. They left Annie at the orphanage but promised to return when the tide of the Great Depression turned. Warbucks is played by Erik Jaerbyn, who offered the following sage advice to his character, “Spend more time with people you love, and try not to be too stressed out about work all the time.”
Skye Karsh plays Miss Hannigan, the iron-fisted autocrat in charge of the orphanage. When Warbucks issues a reward to coax Annie’s parents out of obscurity, Hannigan and her brother, Rooster, hatch a plan to get the money. Karsh’s advice to her character? “Never tell a lie!”
Rooster Hannigan and his girlfriend, Lily, plan to masquerade as Annie’s parents using inside information provided by Miss Hannigan and claim the reward. Ryan Stockton plays Rooster and had to stretch quite a bit to convincingly play the malicious miscreant. “Rooster is a very dark person,” says Stockton. “He’s uneducated and says some of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.”
Grace is Annie’s angel. She is also Daddy Warbucks’s secretary and is responsible for connecting the show’s two main characters. Gracie Johnson, who plays Grace, says she admires her character because “She is strong-willed and courageous and because her heart is so pure and full compassion.” Great character traits indeed.