Friday, June 14, 2013

Junior School Production - Annie

Confession time - I had not heard of the musical or movie named Annie until a few months ago. When Manasi came home home with a letter from school asking children to audition for the Junior School Production of Annie, I went online to get more information! And what do you know - Annie is considered to be a classic, all the songs in the musical are extremely popular, and everyone has seen at least one version of 'Little Orphan Annie'!

The story in a nutshell  - Annie is an orphan living in 1930s New York in the care of Mrs. Hannigan, who runs a City Orphanage. Annie and her other orphan friends are terribly mistreated (of course!), but they still hold onto their hopes and dreams! One Christmas, Annie's life changes drastically when she is invited to be a guest at the Warbucks mansion. Oliver 'Daddy' Warbucks is a multi-billionaire, a rich but lonely man (sigh - cliches, cliches!) who falls under Annie's spell, and decides to adopt her. Annie, however, is still waiting for her parents who had left her a note promising to come back. This leads to another subplot involving Mrs. Hannigan's brother, Rooster, and his girlfriend who are out to make a quick buck. There's the obviously happy ending, with a strange cameo by none other than the President, Mr. Roosevelt! Sound familiar? Of course it does - Oliver Twist, anyone?

This post is not about Annie per se, but rather the version of Annie that our Junior School performed. So getting back on track - Manasi came home with a letter asking for kids to audition. When I was growing up, my school didn't do too much in the way of extra curricular stuff, and I have always felt the lack thereof - so I'm always pushing Manasi to participate in all the myriad activities that her school has to offer - carpe diem, and all that! Manasi, however, wants to only do things that her friends are also doing - and that did not include auditioning for Annie, much to my dismay! Undeterred, I signed her up for an after-school club for the choir of Annie! Luckily, most of her friends were also in the club, so there were no fireworks! Some kids from the choir were also needed to be 'extras' on stage as part of the group songs, and this time, Manasi did volunteer - she was going to be on stage for 2 songs!

The rehearsals started off pretty low-key. The choir club met once a week - and soon all we were hearing at home were the Annie songs! Entire play-dates were spent acting as orphans waiting to be saved by fairy godmothers! Annie fever was raging! Then came the request for costumes - since Manasi was to be a servant, she needed something blue. Yes, 'something blue' was all the information I was given. I must have sent in every piece of blue clothing that Manasi owns - too shiny, too stripey, too blue - everything was turned down by the producers! The costume for the orphan 'extras' was a little easier I thought - equally cryptic, 'something grey', but it didn't have to match anything else! I finally gave up - you know what, if they want Manasi in a costume, they can sent me detailed information on what they exactly need, or they can have it made, and I would gladly pay for it! As can be imagined, this attitude of mine did not exactly endear me to Manasi, but much as I wanted to co-operate, I'm not a mind-reader!

Then in April, the schedule for extra rehearsals came out - either Saturday or Sunday for the next 8 weekends, 4 hours at a stretch! I appreciate the desire and need to have everyone word-perfect, and well, perfect - but isn't this taking it a bit too far? It is a school play, after all! I guess there were other parents who thought the same way, and the schedule was reduced to only 2 weekend rehearsals close to the date of the performance. What I didn't anticipate that the extra rehearsals would still happen - just not on weekends. Now where, one might ask, would the kids find the time to fit in these rehearsals? Well, you know that little thing known as classes, which is why most of us send our kids to school - never knew it was optional for the cast of Annie! That's right, our kids were pulled out of class for Annie practice, for the last few weeks! Didn't know how to react to that one - since I had practically coerced Manasi into joining the cast, I could hardly complain now that she was getting so excited about the performance! The worst part is, Manasi was to be on stage for barely 10 minutes (remember, 2 songs!), so for the rest of the rehearsal, she was sitting around, doing absolutely nothing! Oh well, at least she's having fun!

Soon, I too, was singing the songs - I, of course, didn't really know all the lyrics, so I would just make up my own, to much giggling and eye-rolling! Things were falling into place, though. The costumes had all been sorted out - the teachers decided to make all of them, which must have been a ton of work! Our girls had all the songs down beautifully - I had been to one rehearsal, and I have to admit, the singing gave me goose bumps!  Posters were up on all the buses, a couple of the expat magazines had the show advertised! Although admission was free, we still had to get tickets. Ajey's calendar had the evening blocked out for the performance, and we were ready! Hopefully, the cast and crew were all ready, too!

Front page of the program

The evening of the performance - we made our way to the theatre, where we were greeted by Year 6 students. They handed out programs, and then an usher took us to our seats! Very professional, these kids - I'm impressed already! It was a thrill to find Manasi's name in the program - I'm sure prouder parents would have been hard to find! The show started exactly at 6pm, and we watched spellbound for the next 90 minutes. The songs - 'Maybe', 'Tomorrow', 'Hard-knock Life', 'Little Girls', 'I think I'm going to like it here', 'NYC', 'Easy Street' - all very melodious and sung so wonderfully! I have to say my favorite was 'Little Girls' - the little girl who performed it is all of 11, and yet, what a voice! Manasi was in 'I think I'm going to like it here' and 'NYC', and she did a great job! It was a somewhat humbling experience to watch these kids - all between 8 and 11 - take to the stage like true professionals, absolutely owning the script, never skipping a beat! What confidence, what poise - these kids are better than our generation ever was, and they will surely go far beyond what we are today! The finale brought the entire audience to its feet - a well deserved standing ovation!

Manasi in 'I think I'm going to like it here'

The entire cast taking a bow

5 months, endless rehearsals, lots of hard work - I must say that the result was clear for all to see! And a word for the unsung heroes of this impressive production - all the teachers who must have worked day and night to pull this off! A cast of 160 children, not including all the backstage workers, who did the stage design and the lighting, the costumes, the props, the music - and the organizers who made it all work! What an experience - for us, for our children - and what an opportunity! Next year, our Senior School building will be done, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a huge auditorium and a bigger show! Manasi had such a great time, she's all geared up to audition next year! To be honest, I'm tempted to volunteer too - to be a part of something so magical, how great would that be?! Never too late to 'carpe diem' right?

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