Go inside the Largo High School Auditorium in the afternoon this week, and you'll see them everywhere. Teenagers are onstage, backstage and in the orchestra. Some are gingerly dancing to and fro. Others are belting out the likes of Tomorrow and Easy Street. One hundred teenage students, plus a yellow Lab in the role of Sandy, are involved in Largo High School's spring musical, Annie, based upon the Harold Gray comic strip. It is a joint effort that includes the school's drama, choral and band programs.
Two students are performing as the plucky redheaded orphan. On Friday, Mary Renfroe will take the stage as Annie, along with Blake Doner as Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks and Ashley Kemker as Miss Hannigan. On Saturday, Laura Morris will perform as Annie, with Michael Shurtz as Daddy Warbucks and Adrianna Clark as Miss Hannigan.
Deborah Wortock, director of Largo High School's drama program and the show producer, said the two Annies were selected for their "perfect Annie voices.''
"We just knew that they were the ones,'' she said. "They are an absolute joy to work with.''
The rest of the cast is also solid, Wortock said. "They rehearse diligently with each other, even when I am not working with them. I love their energy.''
This year's show is different from last year's spring production, according to Nathaniel Lanz. Lanz, who will portray Rooster, Annie's friend who dons a disguise to rescue her from the orphanage, performed in The Odd Couple last spring. He played Roy, Oscar Madison's accountant-and poker-buddy.
"I love theater, and I liked doing The Odd Couple, but I'm much more comfortable doing this,'' Lanz said. "I think it's because it's a musical, and I really like to sing and move around up there.''
The show brings together the 20-plus years' working relationship of Wortock, Bill Renfroe, the choral director, and Chris Benoit, the band director. Past shows they've done together include Anything Goes, Kiss Me Kate, Guys and Dolls and The Sound of Music.
"By now, it is a seamless partnership,'' Wortock said.
Last Wednesday, as Wortock moved the actors and dancers to and from the stage, Benoit conducted the orchestra, made up of 26 musicians playing French horns, trombones, flutes, violins and cellos.
Every few minutes, he'd stop the music, and review the story line as well as analyze the lyrics. "Okay, listen, I really want you to understand what this song NYC is about,'' Benoit told the students. "This is a love song, of sorts, for New York City.''
Wortock clapped in agreement.
"That's right, and you know what? Nobody loves New York more than me,'' she said, moving through the line of students. "Nobody loves it more than me.''