‘Annie’ will sing, dance her way to Fulton

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

FULTON – Itawamba County is about to get a chance to spend time with America’s favorite orphan, “Annie.”
The Itawamba Agricultural High School Indian Players will present the classic musical at the old Fulton Grammar School auditorium.
Tickets for last year’s performance of “High School Musical” sold out for every show. Because of that response, director Victoria Blake has added an evening performance to this year’s Saturday showing.
“We’ve had a lot of people asking about this year’s production,” Blake said, predicting sold-out shows this year.
According to Blake, the cast and crew are ready. Getting there, however, has been a challenge. The group of more than 70 performers started practicing in November and hasn’t let up, working hard to memorize dialogue, lyrics and complex dance choreography.
“It’s been challenging bringing 70 kids together on a daily basis,” Blake said with a knowing smile. “But, on the whole, everything’s going really well.”
She said directing young actors has been a new experience.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with any 4- or 5-year-olds before,” Blake said. “That’s a challenge, to keep them focused and know what they’re going to do when there’s so many people out here in the audience. We want to make sure they don’t get scared and run off stage.”

Young star
Blake expressed full confidence in the young star of the show, Itawamba Attendance Center fifth-grader Anna Robinson, who Blake said embodies the heart and soul of the spirited red-headed orphan perfectly.
“When she sings ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here,’ I just feel her emotion in both her singing and expressions,” Blake said. “It’s great to see that kind of fresh talent. She’s just a natural actress, and we’re really glad we found her this year.”
Blake said Robinson is a born perfectionist who has quickly learned her lines and memorized myriad dance routines.
Dancing, by the way, would be choreographer Leah Cayson’s specialty. Cayson, an Itawamba Community College student, has worked with Blake on more than seven musicals.
“These kids have never really had any dance experience,” Cayson said. “Taking 70 kids who have never had any dance experience and trying to teach them choreography has been a challenge.”
According to Blake, the kids also are learning a bit of history. The production is being performed in the Fulton Grammar School auditorium, which was built as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression, the time period in which “Annie” is set.
“It’s like a living history lesson,” Blake said. “The kids are learning history through this, which is neat. They’re learning that the New Deal that Roosevelt talks about in the play is what caused this auditorium to be built. They are learning first-hand how their own community was affected.”

Contact Adam Armour at (662) 862-3141 or adam.armour@itawamba360.com.

What: “Annie”

When: Feb. 25-26 and at 2 p.m.

Where: Fulton Grammar School auditorium

Info: Tickets are $5 if purchased prior to the show or $7 at the door.