NEW CASTLE — (Video highlights appear at the bottom of the story.)
For students in Wilmington High’s drama program, the last few months have been a “Hard Luck Life.”
Now at last they know “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow ” — and Friday and Saturday as well. After long hours of rehearsals, “Annie” will come to life in the school auditorium.
For seniors John Allegro and Kim Shaner, it has been a lot of hard work and after-school practices that have gotten them to this point.
Allegro, 17, plays Daddy Warbucks. He describes the character as, “The typical New York businessman. He spends his life trying to make as much money as possible. Then for a publicity stunt, he has Annie come to stay with him, but he falls in love with the child.”
Shaner, 18, plays the title character of the musical, which is based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie.”
“Annie is the most optimistic person ever,” Shaner said. “She was brought up in an orphanage without anything, but even when Miss Hannigan (the headmistress) treats her badly, Annie believes there is good in her and invites her to the Christmas party.
“She just believes there is good in everyone and everything.”
Allegro is a veteran of Wilmington’s stage. He has participated in all four spring musicals during his tenure at Wilmington. He admits that finishing this, his final high school show, will be difficult.
“I have spent so much of my time on stage. It has helped me grow as an individual,” Allegro said before wistfully adding, “It will be sad when the lights dim on stage for the final time.”
Shaner, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer. She made her debut in last year’s spring musical, “The Sound of Music,” but her turn as Annie is her first lead.
“(The role) has taught me to be a lot more confident in the things I do,” Shaner said. “I came into this show, I never had a lead. I found out I am a good singer and actor.
“I wish I had gotten into theater a lot earlier. I could have used the confidence it helps build, and the family I have gained on the stage.”
For first-time director Brenda Hickman, “Annie” has offered both challenges and positives along the way. With a cast of nearly 70, Hickman admits that at times she has been a bit overwhelmed by it all.
“It is a big cast, but for much of the cast, it is their first time on stage as well,” she said. “There are a lot of ninth- and 10th-graders in the show.”
Particularly exciting to Hickman, though, is the fact that “There are also a lot of boys in the cast.”
All the newcomers have reminded Hickman of the learning curve in theater. For a performance veteran such as herself, directing “Annie” has given her a fresh insight into the newness of being on stage. She has made great efforts to encourage her young actors to think for themselves and take risks. She believes the arts are a critical and extremely important part of any educational curriculum.
“I just feel that the way the world is now structured, how difficult it is, we need the arts,” she said. “Creativity and artistic outlets are keys to a successful and well-balanced life.”
Her hope is that “Annie” offers each student involved, as well as the audiences, a gateway to all the joys and thrills that a lifetime commitment to the arts has to offer.