BROOKSVILLE — The hit musical Annie first opened on Broadway in 1977. The popular feature film, starring Carol Burnett and Aileen Quinn, followed in 1982. And many young girls dreamed that they, too, someday could perform as the eternally optimistic red-headed orphan.
For someone who grew up in the 1980s, Randi Olsen shared that same dream.
"Any little girl involved in musical theater dreams of being Annie, including me," said Olsen, the artistic director for Live Oak Theatre Company.
Olsen said she is finally able to fulfill that dream as Live Oak prepares to present Annie, which opens Oct. 13 at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church. While Olsen, who is directing the show, can no longer fill the role of the infamous 11-year-old orphan, she does get to share the role of Grace, secretary to billionaire Oliver Warbucks.
"It has been a joy to bring my childhood memories of Annie to life," she said.
The timing was perfect to present Annie, Olsen said, with the recent addition of Live Oak's new resident choreographer, Jane Russell Geddings, who has taught movement for more than 30 years and has been recognized regionally for her choreography in theaters along the west coast of Florida. Geddings is an adjunct faculty member for both the dance and theater departments at the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center of the Performing Arts in Tampa.
"Miss Jane is the icing on the cake," Olsen said. "We are thrilled to have her join our team. ... Annie is full of production numbers, and Miss Jane has introduced a lot of choreography to the show. She brings our productions to a whole new level."
Unlike other productions of Annie, Live Oak Theatre offers an immersive theater experience, with a thrust stage that allows the audience to be up close.
The cast of Annie is Live Oak's largest to date, featuring more than 100 performers. While the theater company is known for double-casting its lead roles, Olsen said this is the first show to have dual casts, with two sets of principal characters and children's choruses.
Filling the main roles are: Elizabeth Kessel and Alannah Allocco as Annie; Ariel Santerelli and Elizabeth Kohler as Miss Hannigan; Greg Mys and the Rev. Richard Rossiter (of Cornerstone Baptist Church) as Oliver Warbucks, and Olsen and Julie Hofstede as Grace. Also, starring as Sandy will be Sir Charles Oswald III, a 6-year-old Portuguese Podengo that goes by his nickname, "Ozzie."
"Live Oak has grown leaps and bounds over the years," Olsen said.
She said the nonprofit theater group is actively pursuing the purchase if its own building and will kick off a capital campaign later this fall.
"We're excited," she said.