A story of love, belonging, and everlasting hope is set to grace the stage at Kutztown Area High School on Nov. 16, 17 and 18 in Kutztown’s production of “Annie”, the hit Broadway musical.

The musical tells the story of Annie, an orphan who wants more than anything to meet her biological parents. Soon after attempting to escape the orphanage where she has spent her childhood, Annie is adopted by the wealthy Oliver Warbucks, who advertises nationwide to offer a large reward for anyone who can find the orphan’s parents. Fraudulent claims begin to arise from con artists who scheme to collect the reward by posing as Annie’s mother and father, and all are left wondering where Annie really came from.

The lead role of Annie is to be played by Morgan Claypoole, a junior at Kutztown. Claypoole has worked with a different director for each of her three years in the high school, but she is confident that this year’s change in leadership was a good one.

According to Claypoole, first-year director Suzie Ligammari “is really responsible. She has really done her best, and she cares so much about us as individuals, as well as the musical as a whole.”

Ligammari directs a cast of 43 students, but many more students, parents, and volunteers also come together to assist with the stage crew, pit orchestra, sound and lighting crew, set design, ticket sales, and much more that happens behind the scenes.

“What you don’t see as an audience member is the amount of time and effort that the parents have put in. You can see how elaborate our sets are, our costume designers have been hard at work, and all of that stuff has been completely handled by the parents,” said Ligammari.

Even with the help of so many selfless volunteers, directing a musical is no easy task, and directing a high school musical is even harder. Ligammari, though, has embraced the challenge.

“I can genuinely say I have loved working with every single student, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of their personalities, all 43 of them in the cast, and even more in the crew and pit.”

Parents aren’t the only ones putting in work behind the scenes; actors put in even more time and effort that the audience doesn’t see. Although each performance lasts just two and a half hours, the cast rehearses for months before reaching the final product.

Senior Madison Wolf, who portrays the role of Grace Farrell, Warbucks’s secretary, struggled to put into words the amount of grueling effort that goes unnoticed when putting on a production of this scale.

“Well, I’m tempted to say blood, sweat, and tears! Because it really is a struggle both for each of us as individuals, as well as working together as a group,” said Wolf, who has participated in the high school productions since eighth grade.

The hard work pays off when it comes time for the performances, though. Evelyn Mace, a junior who plays the role of Miss Hannigan, the alcoholic orphanage director, always most looks forward to performing the show for an audience.

“There’s nothing like the end when you bow and everyone’s clapping and you just feel like ‘We did it!’ It’s the greatest feeling, the best feeling in the world. You know you did it, you know you made people happy, and you know you stole them from their world for two and a half hours and put them into a new place that was fun and entertaining,” said Mace, whose sister, Meredith, portrays Cecile, one of Warbucks’s maids.

Wolf reiterated. “It’s a lot of hard work, but coming together and seeing the final result is just so rewarding.”

Junior Owen Kulp, who plays the role of Oliver Warbucks, added that the experience of presenting to an audience is so special because “with being able to tell the story right to a person’s face, you get that raw emotion right there, as opposed to seeing a movie or something like that.”

Both the cast and director agreed that the message of “Annie” is one that any audience member can relate to.

“The overall message of ‘Annie’ is just never-ending hope, and that even if things don’t seem like they are going well, there is always something to look forward to,” said Ligammari, “And it’s true. Even if things don’t work out exactly the way that you thought they would or that you intended, there’s still happiness to be found, and you just have to be able to embrace that.”

“Annie” will be presented in the Kutztown Area High School auditorium Nov. 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online at kasd.tix.com/. Email boxoffice.kahs.musical@gmail.com for additional information regarding ticket reservations.

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