Josiah Burton performs as his character Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Josiah Burton performs as his character Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Tomorrow’ starts today

Soldotna High School returns to stage with production of musical “Annie”

Sara Erfurth spent hours dashing around the Soldotna High School auditorium on Tuesday night, making sure the cast of “Annie” was smoothing out the musical’s final wrinkles before the students take the stage this weekend.

“Every show is right up to the wire,” Erfurth, an English and drama teacher at SoHi, said Tuesday night. “The kids have worked so hard and we have so many elements that separately are amazing. I think once everything finally syncs up it’ll be awesome.”

The show opens at Soldotna High on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Erfurth said she wanted an ambitious musical for the fall, since it will be the first large-scale show since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has been kind of an interesting year, just because we haven’t been able to do anything big for the last couple years,” she said. “I really wanted to do something huge for the first show we could really, fully commit to.”

Erfurth said watching performances in person is a completely different experience than watching a video or live-cast of a show.

“I love theater,” she said. “I think it’s fascinating to see … the emotional current and the way people respond to it. I guess the thing about live shows I think people underestimate is that it’s a far different experience than watching something on a screen.”

It has been impressive to watch the cast and crew of about 37 kids, whose ages range from middle school to late high school, Erfurth said.

“When they are feeling something up there and it’s genuine, and they’re doing something impressive, it resonates,” she said.

Erfurth said she’s been working to give middle schoolers and elementary kids exposure to the theater to build the program from the ground up.

“Hopefully this becomes something that we kind of secure for a couple generations,” she said.

The musical follows 11-year-old Annie Bennett, who escapes from her New York City orphanage in the early 1930s to find her birth parents.

Sophia Micciche, a sophomore at SoHi, is leading as Annie this weekend. She said she’s been acting since she was 8 years old.

Watching everything fall into place has been the best part of the experience so far, she said. The cast started with the production in August.

“I think just seeing everything come together — I mean we start not knowing anything and then we just get to the point where it’s just part of our brains,” Micciche said.

Josiah Burton plays Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks — a wealthy businessman who ends up adopting Annie.

Burton, a junior at SoHi, said he’s been performing either through his school or with the Triumvirate Theatre and Kenai Performers for a few years now.

He said one of his numbers with Micciche, as Annie, is his favorite part of the show.

“I really like me and Annie’s tap dance, ‘I don’t need anything but you,’” Burton said. “It’s pretty cute.”

He said he’s looking forward to the show this weekend — and has really embraced his character.

“I’m excited; I shaved my head for this,” Burton said. “(Erfurth) had the idea of doing ‘Annie’ and I told her that I would shave my head if I could be Warbucks.”

Gabby Lane, who plays Warbucks’ secretary Grace Farrell, said she’s enjoyed being able to play the role of a caretaker.

“My favorite part has probably been kind of being like Annie’s mother figure,” Lane said. “Also … I’m supposed to fall in love with Warbucks and the joking parts and us figuring that out, trying not to laugh when we’re doing that — so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Lane has only participated in theater for a few years. “Annie” is her second musical.

Makayla Craft said the show has allowed her to be more of an extrovert. She was in last year’s production, but just had a solo monologue on stage.

The junior plays Ms. Agatha Hannigan in the musical — the grumpy head of the orphanage who hates children.

“I was home-schooled for five years, and so this is kind of bringing me out of my shell,” Craft said. “It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy theater.”

Even though her character is one of the primary antagonists of the musical, Craft said she relates to Ms. Hannigan in some ways.

“I have three sisters … and so I babysit them a lot,” she said, joking about how they can be hard to handle sometimes.

Like Craft, other members of the supporting cast said they’re relatively new to theater.

Cody Koch is a senior and said he’s always wanted to get involved in the theater. Since it’s his last year of high school, he said he didn’t want to let the opportunity pass him by.

“I’ve always wanted to act and this is my first time so I … really hope I do good,” he said.

Koch said he’s excited to share the musical with the public after months of practice.

His character, Daniel “Rooster” Hannigan, is Ms. Hannigan’s delinquent brother who breaks out of jail to rob his sister and abduct Annie.

“I’m getting excited,” Koch said. “I care about this play; I hope everyone does good.”

Tanner Inman, a junior playing the Warbucks family butler Drake, said she’s excited to get back to having in-person gatherings.

“I think that since the pandemic, it’ll be nice to see people in this auditorium,” she said.

The junior said this is the biggest show she’s ever done, and being a part of the cast has allowed her to meet friends. Inman just moved to the borough from Montana this year.

“I’m really excited. It’s a fun process,” she said. “I was kind of nervous at first because … I wasn’t very prepared but it’s become almost family-like.”

Sariah Waugh, who plays Tessie the orphan, said the last few days of rehearsals have definitely been stressful. She said the preparation for the show has flown by.

“It went by so fast,” she said. “It was very nice to see how it all comes together.”

Waugh said she’s looking forward to the weekend shows, even though she has some nerves.

“I’m mostly excited,” she said. “When I think about like actually being on stage with people watching — it’s definitely scary to think about.”

Erfurth said she’s confident the kids will be able to put on a great show — perfecting everything from the songs to the sets.

“It’s just a million tiny things that have to come together, but I think it will because we have an extraordinary cast,” she said. “The kids have worked so hard.”

Showtimes are at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the SoHi auditorium. Tickets are $15 at the door.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

The case of “Annie” rehearses at Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

The case of “Annie” rehearses at Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

A cast member holds up a cue card in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

A cast member holds up a cue card in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Sara Erfurth, left, gives stage direction during the rehearsals for Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Sara Erfurth, left, gives stage direction during the rehearsals for Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Sophia Micciche performs as her character in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Sophia Micciche performs as her character in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Josiah Burton performs as his character Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Josiah Burton performs as his character Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in Soldotna High School’s production of “Annie” on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

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