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‘Annie’ gives audience chance to see red in downtown Denver

Beloved musical first ran on Broadway 40 years ago


That optimistic little red-headed girl, Annie, part of our cultural fabric since Harold Gray’s popular comic strip started in the 1920s, will once more overcome the difficulties of life as an orphan in the Depression Era this summer — in Phamaly Theatre Company’s production of the musical “Annie” at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

The popular, family-friendly piece by Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charmin first appeared on Broadway in 1977 and has been charming audiences across the nation and around the world since then. While local theater companies find new audiences for it every-so-many years, there was a Broadway revival in 2013 and one this year in London’s West End.

With a cast of 36, directed by Regan Linton, Phamaly’s current artistic director, and past AD Steve Wilson (now AD at Mizel Arts and Cultural Center), music direction by David Nehls and Trent Hines and choreography by Debbie Stark and Ronnie Gallup, the production will run from July 15 to Aug. 6 at the Stage Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Phamaly casts its productions with people who live with disabilities — both physical and emotional — and who want to participate in professional performances.

Even the pair of canine actors who alternate as Sandy, Annie’s stray dog companion, conform: Daisy is an amputee lab mix and Sonny, a small mix who lost his eyes to glaucoma. (The last time Phamaly had a canine actor was in “The Wiz” — which featured Leonard Barrett making his entrance on stilts as the lead.)

The lead role of Annie will be played by Maria Ciobanu, while veteran performer/jazz singer Leonard Barrett will play Daddy Warbucks, the lonely millionaire who eventually adopts our girl. Longtime Phamaly member Jenna Bainbridge, originally from Douglas County, who has gone on to a professional career from her start with the company, will be Grace, Warbucks’ secretary. (She recently appeared in Arvada’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.”) Cranky orphanage supervisor Miss Hannigan will be played by Ashley Kelashian.

South area cast members are Leonard Barrett and Lisa Gough of Littleton and Lucy Roucis, of Englewood, whose Phamaly membership goes back many years.

Gough, 48, who is new this year, said she overheard the previous artistic director’s wife talking about Phamaly at a restaurant and received an enthusiastic “yes” when she “timidly asked” if she might join. She says she has not acted onstage since grade school days, although she attended CU-Denver as a vocal performance major. She has modeled and been a vocalist, but suffered from a brain injury and the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. “I am emotionally retarded,” she said. An 80-pound German shepherd named Angel is her service dog, an alpha-dog who keeps Gough connected as she finds a family in Phamaly, volunteering as well as performing. “I just sometimes don’t have a filter … Whatever life throws at you, there are always people who see you for who you are,” she concluded in a June phone call.

If you go

“Annie” plays July 15 to Aug. 6 at the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Champa streets in downtown Denver. (Previews: July 13, 14.) Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Monday, July 24; 2 p.m. Sundays; 1 p.m. Saturday, July 29. There will be an audio description and sign interpretation performance Sunday, July 23 and sensory-friendly performance Thursday, Aug. 3 ($20 tickets for these two and previews). Tickets: $28 to $37, phamaly.org/annie or DCPA box office, 303-893-4100, group tickets, 303-365-0005 x3.


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