Tag Archives: “Annie Jr.”

Roundup: Brian Keane, TAILS, “Annie” …

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What do Muddy Waters, James Cotton, James Montgomery and Brian Keane have in common?

The 3 famed blues musician — and the Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer/producer/1971 Staples High School graduate — will be inducted into the New England Music Hall of Fame. The ceremony is Saturday (November 27) in Mystic.

Keane has scored hundreds of films and television shows. His music has been hailed as “indelible and breathtaking” by the Los Angeles Times, “piercingly beautiful” by the New York Times, and “masterful” by Newsweek. He has been called a “musician’s musician” by Downbeat, a “composer’s composer” by the Hollywood Reporter, and “one of the most impressive musicians of the decade” by Billboard.

(To learn more about Brian Keane, click here. For more on the New England Music Hall of Fame, click here. Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Brian Keane

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Happy 20th anniversary, TAILS!

The Westport group — which protects local cats from homelessness, while supporting felines in 9 area towns through spaying and neutering, with dozens of volunteers — earned tax-exempt status in November 2001.

TAILS — whose formal name is The Alliance In Limiting Strays — helps both dogs and cats. But they focus on where they see the most need: feral cats. One pair can easily turn into 40 cats in 2 years.

To learn more, click here or here; email info@tailsct.org; call 203-222-1992, or search Instagram: @tails_spay_neuter.

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Among the many yard signs promoting political candidates earlier this month, one of the most memorable urged “Write in Alma for Board of Education.”

Hers — and all the others — are gone. But a new sign has cropped up, plugging someone else by her first name only. It too starts with “A”:

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Matt Murray — who spotted this sign — says, with tongue (hopefully) in cheek: “I don’t know what office she’s running for, or what her political affiliation is, but I think she may have missed the timing for elections.”

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“Westport … Naturally” usually features outdoor shots. Naturally.

But this indoor-and-out image is too good to pass up!

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … Philip Margo, an original member of the Tokens — best known for the mega-hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” — died earlier this month in Los Angeles, after suffering a stroke. He was 79.

The Tokens had other hits too. Click here for the intriguing back story of his, and his group’s, careers.

“Annie Jr.” And “Charlie Brown”: Elementary School Actors Shine

The pandemic was tough. At times, it was hard to believe the sun would come up tomorrow.

But it did. We persevered. And now we’re reaping the rewards.

Among them: a production of “Annie Jr.” by Greens Farms Elementary School 5th graders.

The show — on June 4-6, outdoors near Bedford Square — is a collaboration with TheaterCamp4KidsBroadwayAcademy.com. But it would not have been possible without help from throughout the community.

Many were available only because of COVID.

“We have the most wonderful young actors, parents, and theater and dance professionals,” says Laura Curley Pendergast, TheaterCamp owner and artistic director.

Volunteers include a Rockette, a former choreographer for “Disney on Ice,” professional actors and set designers, and others.

In true the-show-must-go-on style, TheaterCamp faced — and overcame — many challenges. Among them: Though they earned nearly $10,000 in ticket sales after the March 2020 production of “Beauty and the Beast” at GFS, the ticket company never paid them.

“After many attempts we finally gave up. The cost of an attorney was just too expensive,” Pendergast says.

“We thought we could not do a play this year for our very talented 5th graders, who had been waiting in the ensemble for 2 years for their turn to star.”

Rehearsing “Annie Jr.” at Bedford Square.

But many Westporters stepped up. Among them: David Waldman, who provided space to rehearse and perform at Bedford Square.

Tecknow’s Phil Levieff lent musical equipment for rehearsals — along with technical know-how.

Professional film and stage actor Emily Hooper serves as musical director. David Hoffman, a Dartmouth student and accomplished actor, is assistant director and stage manager. Staples High and middle school students are interning with the show.

Professional actor Jim Lauten — also a talented painter and builder — donated all of the rolling sets.

Costumes were provided by designer Pam Beaudoin, who lives at Bedford Square.

Parents Jenny Perlman and Laurie Ginsberg handle ticket sales — not an outside company. (Pendergast learned her lesson.)

She is grateful for the help of other locals with impressive resumes. Kristine Nielsen (a GFS parent) is a professional dancer who choreographed “Disney on Ice” for years.

Former Rockette and Knicks dancer Kelly Potter McHale is another “Annie Jr.” choreographers. So is Kim Porio.

Costumes have been handled by a hard-working trio: Marisa Zer, Taran Gulliksen and Shobana Mani-Lorenzato.

Volunteers help the young actors make magic.

One of the first rehearsals was at the GFS basketball court in cold and rain. After seeking shelter on the school’s front porch, the young actors found a way to make it a fun day. It remains a favorite memory. 

The sun eventually came out. And so — next week — will the young actors and dancers in “Annie Jr.”

(“Annie Jr. is performed Friday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 5 at 2 and 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 6 at 2 p.m., outdoors near Bedford Square. Tickets are $18 each. They can be purchased by Venmo (@laura-pendergast-2), PayPal (curleylaura@hotmail.com) or check (payable to “TheaterCamp4Kids,” c/o Laurie Ginsberg, 209 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880). Questions? Email anniejr2021westport@gmail.com. To help via GoFundMe, click here.)

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Meanwhile, the fledgling Saugatuck Elementary Theater Club also struggled with how to continue this year.

They too decided the show must go on. They chose “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, with a twist. They’d record parts individually, and create a movie in lieu of a live show.

With a small cast and cartoon quality, it lent itself to green screens and graphics, rather than props and elaborate costumes. That was a great fit for the pandemic.

Luckily, local Broadway star Jaden Waldman — who just happens to be a Saugatuck 5th grade — had some COVID-induced time on his hands. He’s a perfect Charlie Brown.

Jaden Waldman as Charlie Brown, Phoebe Nunziato as Lucy.

Other roles were double cast, to provide more opportunities for the young actors. The 2 casts were called “Saugie” and “Tuck.”

Rehearsals were held on Zoom. Leads recorded practice songs each week, then uploaded them to receive feedback.

Blocking was recorded by director Katie Bloom, and shared via instructional videos.

Each child sang alone. Vocal tracks were then layered together. Zoom recordings were deconstructed and reconstructed. Microphones and green screens were juggled between cast members’ houses. When possible, they came together for a socially distanced scene or two.

The “Tuck” cast rehearses via Zoom.

The project required dedication and responsibility seldom demanded of 10- year-olds.

It all culminates Wednesday (June 2) in a big way: the big screen at the Remarkable Theatre. Congratulations to all the good men — and women, and children — who helped make “Charlie Brown” a reality.

(The Remarkable Theater opens at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at sunset, and costs $40 per car. A pizza truck will be on the premises. For tickets — or to stream the show on June 4, 7 p.m. —click here.)

(Hat tips: Jenny Perlman Robinson and Pamela Long)