(Posted April 17, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Teri Gray, a long-time educator and veteran of stage shows, is retiring at the end of the school year. Rather than coast to the finish, she decided to give herself and her students a challenge. The result: St. Patrick School in London is staging its first full production of a musical.
“This is brand new. The kids are excited,” Gray said.
The cast will be singing and dancing the story of everybody’s favorite little orphan in “Annie Jr.” Nostalgia informed Gray’s choice of show for this grand adventure.
“I did ‘Annie Jr.’ 10 years ago at London Middle School,” she said.
A total of 42 students in grades 3-8 make up St. Patrick’s cast and crew. Some have performed vocal music numbers before but many, if not all, are new to the stage musical format.
Sixth-grader Norah Gruzs, who plays Annie, saw it as an opportunity to try out her acting chops.
“I get to have a different personality. That’s the fun part of it,” she said, adding that she especially enjoys performing one of the show’s most iconic songs, “Tomorrow.”
Fifth-grader Emilia Randall plays Grace Farrell, the secretary and love interest of billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. She said she likes how proper her character is. She also said she was anxious about trying something new.
“I get nervous at doing something for the first time, but then I get to know everything and all the nerves go out, and I’m happy about it,” she said.
When third-grader Bandon Randall was asked why he tried out for the musical, he said, “I wanted to express myself more. It was another chance to perform.”
Bandon plays Bert Healy, an energetic radio announcer who is extremely proud of himself for heading up his own radio show. Bandon said his energy in real life matches that of his character.
Eighth-grader Kate Gregonis says about her decision to participate in the musical, “I did it for Miss Gray.”
Gray raved about a solo Gregonis sang in St. Patrick’s Christmas concert and encouraged her to try out for “Annie Jr.”
“She nailed the tryout for Miss Hannigan,” Gray said, referring to the character who serves as the not-so-nice head mistress of the orphanage.
“I like how she’s in charge,” Gregonis said about her character. She added that one of her favorite numbers is “Easy Street” because it suits her voice and she enjoys performing the dance movements.
Gray is thrilled with how the entire cast and crew are doing with the show, and she is thankful for the help she has received in pulling the production together. Eighth-grader James Thompson serves as her student director. Parent Emily Laney has been instrumental as a prop gatherer and liaison between Gray and the other stage parents.
Shows are set for 1:30 p.m. April 26 and 7 p.m. April 27-28. The show on April 26 is a dress rehearsal to be performed for the student body; senior citizens are invited to attend at no charge.
For the shows on April 27-28, doors open at 6:15 and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, and free for children 5 years old and younger. Tickets are pre-sale only and can be purchased at the school. Ticket sales end April 24.
St. Patrick School is located at 226 Elm St., London. For tickets or more information, call (740) 852-0161.
“Annie Jr.” is based on the book written by Thomas Meehan with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. Charnin directed the original Broadway production.