Upstart Crow Studios

Annie (Asa Clevenger) and Grace Farrell (Courtney Volta) sing "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here." Photo by Suzi Steffen

Sometimes, traditional journalism isn't enough. Or even close to enough.

I stuck to a fairly traditional style for the #theroadtoAnnie article, which was kind of short in any case, but I missed the emotions.

Someone said to me this morning, “I thought, ‘You were there for how long, for this?’” He flicked the paper. Um, yeah. Ouch.

That’s right, I couldn’t do anyone’s journey justice in that length. Still, I wish I’d done better. Here was one of my first attempts, edited today.

Things I Have Contemplated During #theroadtoAnnie:
An Essay

If you’re in my age group, especially but not exclusively if you’re a woman in my age group, you likely know all of the songs to the musical Annie, whether in Broadway or movie form. You probably thought “Hard-Knock Life” was such a funny song when you were a kid, and, especially if you had red hair, you thought that one day, you would play the lead role.

But I learned otherwise during the months of attending Annie rehearsal. I learned otherwise about Annie, and I learned other things as well. I was reminded that journalists have emotions and that the stories we do change us, that those stories can call up our past; that children and young adults have skills and talents and deep discussions and homework, that they need and enjoy talking with mentors who aren’t their parents, that they sing Michael Jackson and M.C. Hammer (not kidding) and Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber when they’re horsing around offstage; that the adult mentors who help those kids have a calling and a commitment that goes far beyond sentiment.

Photo of Corridor School performance by Todd Cooper

Some of my thoughts (after the jump, if you're coming from the front page of the blog):

Hi there, Annie fans! If you'd like to find all of the posts, click here, and you'll see them in reverse order (most recent first).

The essay (is now up here), and more about Tim Wilcox, Sarah Beth Byrum, Jackie Stollar, Eularee Smith and a few of the parent volunteers, will be up later, as will a longer video or two.

In the meantime, just a few images from tonight, 3/3 dress/tech Cast B. I was greeted by Eularee Smith, who said, "You just can't stay away, can you? You have to find out what the next disaster is! Well, it's Sarah Beth. She has the curse of Annie! She's sick! No lights!" But, good news, Jaya may be back this weekend! Also good news, tomorrow morning I am SO tracking down a decent photo of Taylor Da---- and putting it up here ...

Ami, backstage

Grace and Grace!

Molly (Maggie) and Ms. Hannigan (Sadie)

Ms. Hannigan (Sadie) does the happy dance of cold mush

T Minus Four (Days) for Annie

This is one of a series of posts about Upstart Crow Studios' production of Annie. If you want to see more posts about the past few months of rehearsal, click here.

It's 5:43 pm, and the intro action is coming to a close. The orchestra's playing above us in the walkway, and Sarah Beth Byrum is trying to make the lights work. I'm going to run backstage to see what's happening back there and get some video if possible. I'll keep updating! Possibly with a Cover It Live blog, possibly not ... depends on what happens.

Though I'm kind of riveted to the orphan scene, which is super poignant. I don't think adults should be allowed to watch Annie. I'm worried about the remaining Annie, Asa; she sounds awfully hoarse! Cast B Annie, Jaya, has pneumonia and may be able to participate in the final show at the Wildish on March 14.

Heading Backstage ...

Photos from backstage:

Connor and Cassie, with Aidan's suit sleeve

Hazel and Connor


Jourdan! He plays Drake. D'oh! Drake

Matthew mouthing the words to "Hard-Knock Life" (happening on stage)

Nick mouthing along with "Hard-Knock Life"

Loooooong ago, as in on Jan. 18 or so, in a galaxy upstairs from the auditorium, some of Cast B was relaxing with Michael Jackson.

Sadly, I only had my [redacted swearing in honor of the young people who will be looking at this video] camera with me, so the quality is not the best, but still: I was impressed that they rocked out to a song I believe came out when I was in high school. I tried to upload this about a month ago, and of course YouTube had crashed. Then I just ... forgot. Apologies to the power of the backstage crew!

Tonight at Upstart Crow, we have Cast A doing a run-through. Right now, Sadie's singing "Little Girls," but here's the raw (totally unedited, that is) footage of the second half of "It's the Hard-Knock Life," starting with the lines that always make me tear up: "Empty belly life / Rotten, smelly life / Full of sorrow life / No tomorrow life."

The Annie is Asa Clevenger, in the tye-died T-shirt. (Cast B run-through is Thursday night, & I'll upload some then as well.)

At Upstart Crow Studios for Annie rehearsal, Cast B is busy running through a scene where Annie and Daddy Warbucks meet FDR.

Here's a pic of Jaya Rowelle, the Cast B Annie, trying on her dress a couple of weeks ago:

A few weeks ago, Cast B was busy learning "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover," including some choreography. Here are Hazel Herring (l), Grace Kelly (r) and Taylor Doble (behind) practicing some of the dancing (which later got changed):

That same week, here's Upstart Crow's exec director, and the co-director of Annie, Eularee Smith helping orphan Molly (Caitley Criswell, I believe) whine a little more in the first scene. The girls are in the dance studio, and they're sprawled out all over the floor.

And here's Jaya in the Hooverville scene a few weeks ago:

I have some (poor quality but fun) video of some of Cast B's principals doing Ring Around the Rosy and MJ backstage ... and as soon as YouTube loads that, it's up! More from tonight probably Wednesday afternoon.

I give you my second effort, this one from iMovie. There's actually even more going on in the building, with dance class, private lessons (I think) and parents popping in and out of the front with questions and concerns. But here's a 2-minute snapshot of some of what happened Monday night at ... The Road to Annie!

UPDATE: List of scenes
1. Timothy Wilcox, music director, explaining to the denizens of Hooverville that they need a lyric book if they don't know the lyrics

2. "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover" (partial)

3. Wilcox explaining how they should sing the song

4. The next attempt at "We'd Like to Thank You Herbert, Hoover" (starts with applesellers Grace Kelly and Grace Gibson on the left, aka stage right; pans to Sophie the coal woman, played by Holley Flora and Olivia Nilsen on the right, aka stage left)

5. Eularee Smith discusses the cast list. (87 kids. We also talked about the difficulties of finding a Daddy Warbucks and an FDR.) BTW, Annie opens in four weeks!

6. Jackie Stolar leads the little kiddos in learning "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile"

7. Cast A Annie Asa Clevenger tries on the Annie wig backstage. Upstart Crow Studios artistic director Sarah Beth Byrum gives her opinion (in the grey hoodie at the end).

I have so much to say about Monday night's rehearsal, and a whole lot more video to edit and work with, but it's taken several hours and tech consults (thanks, James!) and interventions to get this one short video up here. We WILL speed up the process!

This is at the end of rehearsal; other kids are rehearsing "NYC" in the dance studio about 15 feet away, and backstage, there's costume fitting. Here, the two Annies (Asa's in Cast A; Jaya's Cast B) rehearse their big songs. More coming soon!

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