Precociously talented theater students from Ruth C. Kinney Elementary’s third, fourth and fifth grades knocked the socks of of more than one audience of parents, staff and fellow students during their May 10 and 11 performances of “Annie Jr.” Over 50 RCK students participated in the smash musical, which they had prepared for since January with the encouragement of a tireless team of volunteers.
Set in 1933, the story is an adaption of the famous 1977 Broadway musical “Annie,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical. With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, the original Broadway production was itself adapted from the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” created by Harold Gray in 1924.
Directed by Dennis Clancy with assistance from Laurie Mehner, RCK’s “Annie Jr.” starred Imma Esposito in the title role as the plucky 11-year-old orphan, with the principal cast also including Robert Arcidiacono as Rooster Hannigan, Miranda Barretto as Annette, Sarah Blumberg and Jessica Califano as Dog Catchers, Joseph Canas as Louis Howe, Felice Carone as Drake, Alle Christiansen as Lt. Ward, Mike Colon as President Roosevelt, Kerry Comer as the Apple Seller, Shannon Dodenhoff as Miss Hannigan, Elena Esposito as Molly, Mikayla Henderson as Kate, Randi Jepson as Mrs. Greer, Julianna Longo as the Usherette, Nicolina Marchisello as Pepper, Justin Martinez as Oliver Warbucks, Olivia Pena as Lily St. Regis, Jennifer Profera as Mrs. Pugh, Christina Rooney as Star-to-Be, Alexa Sortino as Cecille, Cassidy Stephen as Duffy, Sophia Stryjewski as Grace Farrell, Ryan Stutzenstein as Bundles McCloskey, Marie Tohill as July, Joelle Tomossone as Tessie, Katie Waldron as Bertha Healy and “Clancy” as Annie’s dog Sandy.
Additional onstage cast members included Tarynn Boesch, Cynthia Cooke, Hannah Feeney, Sofia Frigiola, Caroline Kelly, Nicole LaPort, Juliana Marcano, Meaghan McNulty, Alexa Munoz, Gabriella Pannullo, Sarah Piccinini, Andie Santacroce, Lilly Scholl, Joshua Terhune, Victoria Tong and Emma Vecchio as orphans, city people and musicians.
Music teacher Margaret Strzelecka acted as musical coach to the soloists. The dedicated ensemble of grade-school thespians did a remarkable job singing the musical’s beloved classics like “Tomorrow” and “It's the Hard-Knock Life,” enhanced by wireless sound equipment handled by John Fuchs and provided by Stephen Guarino, the East Islip School District’s art and music director. Dana Belfiore and her set design team of students created, assembled and painted all of the sets. The props, costumes and scenery flats were donated by the parents, teachers and staff of RCK.
In lieu of charging admission to the musical, RCK Principal Danielle Naccarato and her staff asked parents to support fundraising efforts to benefit Winthrop-University Hospital’s Cancer Center for Kids and the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, organizations that have provided lifesaving measures to two members of the RCK community. The entire proceeds of the “Annie Jr.” performances will be donated equally between those two organizations.
Photos by Greg Fasolino, Dureen Panero and Glenn Reed.