58 young people from throughout South Valley perform in the show

By Marty Cheek

Leapin’ lizards! A cast of 58 young performers from the South Valley will tell the story of a little orphan girl and her dog, Sandy” of the musical “Annie Jr.”

The show opens Nov. 11 for nine shows at the Gilroy High School Theater. It is produced by the city of Gilroy’s Recreation Division and Little Theater Productions.

Although the musical was written nearly 50 years ago, Annie is one of those staple shows that lasts the test of time, said Hilary Little, the show’s artistic director.  The songs are memorable, the characters are just fantastic and the story is sweet and so heartwarming, she said describing what drew he to choose the show.

“As a girl, I loved watching Carol Burnett in all her disheveled glory as Miss Hannigan,” she said. “Once Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters joined her antics and belted out Easy Street as Rooster and Lily, I fell in love. I mean, who doesn’t love a villain? Especially three with such a show-stealing number. If I wasn’t directing the show right now, I’d be looking for an all ages production of the show so I could be in it!

The level of talent and character the leads bring to the stage is inspiring to the younger actors and thrilling for our audiences, Little said. In addition to the familiar faces our guests will see on stage, we have some truly incredible newcomers in the cast – including the Ariana Diaz playing the title role of Annie.

“Ariana Diaz is a newcomer to LTP. This young lady has the perfect voice to bring the right character and energy to the role,” Little said. “She’s got the sweetest dimpled smile. She’s feisty but sweet, thoughtful but tough. It’s easy to see why she would be the perfect fit for the most friendly orphan of all. My favorite moments in rehearsal so far have been watching her bond with the dog. I’m already getting my box of tissues ready for the final moment between the two of them.

Many children in “Annie” find themselves performing on stage for the first time. Little makes sure they have safe and positive theater experience but will also challenge each child grows as a performer and as an individual.

“We see our more reserved actors develop friendships, gain confidence, and come out of their shells, and our more outgoing actors take chances, experiment, and try new things,” she said. “We stress the importance of teamwork, respect, and responsibility. Through the process of creating a theater production such as Annie, children learn how to socialize with each other outside of school and create friendships that last beyond the rehearsal and performance processes.”

Little encourages families to share with their children the thrill of seeing other  young people perform on stage to inspire them in the performing arts.

“There is nothing quite like spending an evening at the theater. Getting dressed up, having dinner beforehand, arriving at the performance space, feeling the energy from the busy volunteers who make your experience in the audience a stellar one,” she said.  “Then, taking your seats, watching the crowd filter in, the house lights slowly dim and seeing the captivation on your children’s faces as the stage lights glow and illuminate the actors onstage.”

The “Annie Jr” performers are:

Adam Hart, Amari Johl, Ander Saul, Anelise Chavez, Annabella Basso, Ariana Diaz, Armando De La Torre,  Ashlyn Azevedo, Audriana Cruz, Avery Stites, Azalea Rodgers, Bowen Brinan, Brielle Johnson, Charlie Torres, Charlotte Fugate, Clayton Bortolussi, Coraline Christian, Coraline Christian, Dahlia Bell, Dahlia Bell, Dara Hargreaes, Emerson Orlando, Emily Rempel, Garciela Bolger, Giavanna Licata, Grace Rogers, Graham Bortolussi, Greyson Orlando, Hailey Woodford, Ivie Cintas, Jack Gamino, Joselynn Klamo, Josh Hauch, Jude Lee, Julia Klamo, Kaileye De La Serna, Kimberly Jimenez-Ramos, Layla Terrones, Lizzy Call, Maisie Maiorino, Makayla Hoiberg, Malia Quinata, Mariah Taylor, Maya Diaz, Mila Mitchell, Molly Rempel, Paul David Yoshikawa, Penny McQuaid, Penny Saul, Ruby Bell, Savanna Torres, Sienna Licata, Sofia Licata, Sofia Longoria, Sydney Hoiberg, Taylor Conzales, Taylor Woodford, Tiffany Torres, Vince Gamino, Vince Gamino, and Vivienne Cox.