by Tammy Rosenfeldt

Sycamore Township, Ohio – Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s Upper School Theatre Department presented Annie September 24th – 26th at CHCA’s Lindner Theater. This unforgettable story was directed by CHCA’s Director of Theatre, Susan Jung, Technical Direction by Jim Jung, Choreographed by Maria Huey and Susan Jung, and Stage Management by CHCA sophomore Jacob Kaesemeyer.

Based on the popular comic strip, Annie tells the extraordinary story of a little orphan who is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstop of a New York City orphanage run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other girls in the orphanage, Annie escapes to the wondrous world of Depression era NYC. Her adventures lead her to billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his secretary, Grace Farrell, and a faithful mutt named Sandy.

For those familiar with the story, rather than simply experiencing the same songs and lines they have heard before, they found themselves unexpectedly filled with emotion thanks to the talent among this cast. Most moving was the chemistry between Annie (played by the ever-delightful sophomore Natalie Hudepohl) and “Daddy” Warbucks (portrayed by talented senior Jackson Rebhun). Their performances together left the audience mesmerized and moved. From Hudepohl’s emotional scene of finding out the truth about her parents, to Rebhun’s solo “Why Should I Change a Thing?”, complete with their adorable “I Don’t Need Anything but You” duet, their family dynamic was perfect.

Senior Grace Goodwin beautifully and flawlessly portrayed Grace Farrell with a strong maturity and her amazing voice. Stealing every scene she was in, senior Bella Randle brought the memorable character of Miss Hannigan to life with charisma and her incredible voice. Her sidekicks, Rooster and Lily St. Regis, played by the charismatic senior Colin Swayze and talented sophomore Abby Fancett, delivered remarkable performances bringing extra comic relief to the story.

A most memorable scene included President Roosevelt and his Cabinet members. Roosevelt (played by sophomore Tobi Aina) and his staff (junior James Doyle, freshman Wyatt Elma, freshman Ryan Eppert, senior Henry Heimlich, and junior Abby Rosenfeldt) delivered a rousing reprise of “Tomorrow,” complete with fantastic harmony.

The orphans were a delight in every scene of which they were a part. Setting the background of the era with their song “Hard Knock Life” and joyfully singing “Never Fully Dressed”, the girls’ singing talents and choreography were wonderful highlights to the show. 

The show included several talented students representing grades 7-12, many of them filling in multiple roles on stage and off. From the youngest of students to the seniors – each played an integral part of the show’s success. 

And a bonus… an audience favorite was Sandy, played by dogs Cielo and Mia. Both dogs performed well, warming hearts with obedience and attention to Annie.

Director Susan Jung traditionally shares her thoughts of each show she produces in the playbill.  An excerpt from this one is as follows:

Set in the Depression Era, this story still feels familiar: two very different worlds, people struggling to make ends meet, anger and division… but in this story, we follow a very special orphan who chooses to believe in hope.

I had to call on my inner Annie a lot this past year. It seemed (and still does) like our world is crumbling under the weight of politics, war, social media feuds, heroes fallen from grace, sickness, and death. There were days when I didn’t think the sun was ever going to come out. Maybe you feel like that now. And when I was in the low places, I clung to a promise. The orphan Annie sings a song called “Maybe” where she wonders about the possibilities of her parents coming back to get her and love her. I feel so very blessed to not have to wonder. My Father never left me, and I do not have to doubt His love for me. It is this promise that lifts the weight of the world from my heart and plants me firmly back in a place of hope.

This show is about two worlds, but what I hope you see is that there is a common theme. Warbucks may have all the money in the world, but he knows he’s missing something. Annie may have nothing, but she knows she’s missing something. And what are they both missing? Love. Love is the thing that conquers both worlds, that brings together an unlikely pair, that heals hearts that have either been wounded or hardened. Love is the light that makes tomorrow possible.

CHCA’s Fine Arts Director Mona Summers shared of the show, “It was amazing to have larger audiences for Annie this weekend after last year’s mandated low attendee numbers. I know the cast enjoyed the energy of having more people in the audience.

The cast did a superb job of telling the beloved story of Annie. There were so many standout performances from our seasoned seniors and our underclassmen, which came together to give everyone who saw the show a wonderful theatre experience. Thank you to our outstanding directors, cast, Student Production Team, volunteers, and Fine Arts team members for a great season opener!”

After a year of limited seating, senior Rebhun summed up the emotions felt among the entire cast with this statement: “After the first show with a full crowd and the applause that followed, I was without words, and I felt happiness that I haven’t felt in more than two years. It was in that moment when I remembered why I do theater.”

Bravo to the entire cast, student production team, and directors!

The show is one of seven theatrical productions at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy this year. Mark your calendars now to attend 101 Dalmatians KIDS (October 22-23), It’s a Wonderful Life (November 19-21), Moana JR. (January 14-16), 42nd Street (March 11-13), Academy Night Live (April 22-23), and The One Act (May 10).