Children's Theatre of Dover and Kent County opens its season with "Annie" at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7.

With almost two weeks until opening night, the scene at rehearsals for the upcoming production of “Annie” was about as hectic as an orphanage run by a lush. The cast of nearly 50 is scrambling to move from scene to scene, getting in a song here and there between posing for photographs and rapid-fire costume changes.

So basically it’s business as usual for the Children’s Theatre of Dover and Kent County, except for the fact that it’s traded in its longtime home at Wesley College’s Wells Theatre for practice room in Reith Hall and performances at the Schwartz Center for the Arts. The show opens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6.

Director Sharon Crossen said the move is an exciting one whose success depended on many different parties.

“We are thrilled to be in our own space,” she said. “Although everything is new to us during this transition period, we have had tremendous support from the board, the state, the Schwartz and the parents. The cast can’t wait to get to the Schwartz for the actual performance.”

Donning the iconic red dress and curly wig for the title role is veteran Sydney Palmer, who audiences might remember as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” and Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz.” They also might catch a glimpse of her in Dover High School’s production of “Exit the Body” at 2 p.m. Oct. 31.

For Palmer balancing the two roles is a cinch. It helps that the characters are complete opposites and that she’s been on stage for years.

“Knowing lines is kind of second nature,” she said.

Crossen relied on the experience of actors such as Palmer to cast “Annie,” for which a third of the cast is new to Children’s Theatre. The show depends on the strength of the principal characters. The group auditioned 66 students who had to sing, dance and do a cold reading, and they found a handful who were strong in all areas for the leads, including Annie.

“We needed an experienced actress with an exceptional voice to make this play successful. Sydney fit the bill on all accounts, and she dances well, too,” Crossen said.

She’s also leaning on Christian Davis as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Rob Murrian and Marinah Boyles as Rooster and Lily, Olivia Giglio as Grace, and Laura Moore as Miss Hannigan.

Moore has grown the most since her lead in “Cinderella,” Crossen said, and is reprising the role her sister Tracey had in Polytech’s version of “Annie” a few years ago. Ashley Draper, who played the title role in that production, is the musical director of the Children’s Theatre show.
Crossen decided to stage the musical again because it has a large cast, giving her the opportunity to bring the performing arts to more children.

“It has a little bit of everything, including a range of characters from innocents to rogues to the very powerful. It gives opportunities to the veteran actors and to the neophytes,” she said.

For Palmer, the appeal of the play and her character is her insistence on seeing the bright side of any situation.

“A lot of it is just showing how your situation, it could always be worse,” she said.

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