MASON CITY | “Annie!” is “a terrific play, a huge, huge title that everybody wants to see,” says Tom Ballmer, executive director at Stebens Children's Theatre, where the musical opens Thursday night.
“I’ve got these very, very talented people doing this play, doing it up big," Ballmer said. "Really huge singers, really funny actors.”
And they’re all very committed to the show, including Austin Bailey, who planned to shave his head to play Oliver Warbucks.
“I really love this play,” Bailey said.
Bailey, who played a turtle in “Alice in Wonderland” in October, said he likes playing a human for a change.
“It’s nice to play a part I can relate to easily. Warbucks doesn’t have too many emotions at the start," Bailey said of his character. "Warbucks loves capitalism and money. He doesn’t feel room in his heart for Annie.”
Kylie Hansen plays Annie.
“Kylie has the best voice -- a huge voice,” Ballmer said. “She’s a really good actress.”
Hansen said her age is a challenge.
“I’m 13 trying to play 11,” Hansen said. “It’s hard to act young.”
Annie is a spunky, Depression-era orphan determined to find her parents, who abandoned her on the doorstep of the embittered Miss Hannigan.
“I love how bossy and totally love how defiant I am to Miss Hannigan,” Hansen said.
Catherine Gobeli plays Miss Hannigan, “a lonely drunk who’s mean to everyone,” Gobeli said.
“It’s just really different compared to characters I’ve played in the past," she said. "As Miss Hannigan, I really enjoy flouncing on stage and flirting with every man.”
The show includes the well-known songs “Tomorrow,” “Easy Street” and “Hard Knock Life.”
“The orphans really sound good together,” Hansen said. “The Jumpers (Jordyn and Ella) have perfect orphan voices.”
At one point, the Boylan Sisters sing “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” which is then reprised by the orphans.
“They’re cute as bugs doing it,” Ballmer said.
“These kids are so adorable,” Bailey agreed. “They will make you cry.”
Sarah Betz, who played Snoopy in last year’s production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Stebens, plays Annie's dog, Sandy.
“Sarah Betz decided she wanted to play a dog again,” Ballmer said. “She barks and sings. She’s going to be good.”
“She’s totally into it,” Hansen agreed. “She’s got the personality. I don’t know how she gets into the dog. She’s killing the role.”
The actors are ready for opening night.
“I’ve been in a lot of plays here,” Bailey said. “This is definitely one of my favorites already. Just a lot of emotions.”
“Annie steals everyone’s heart,” Hansen added. “You should come watch it. It’s going to be great.”