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by Antonella Antonecchia
Tuesday, Aug. 04, 2009 at 7:54 AM
A stage filled with youth, from ages 2 years of age to 17, will not only sing and dance their hearts out for their audience, but they will also entertain them with skits that educate their audience about human rights, in a one-of-a-kind Broadway production of “Annie Jr.”, on Saturday, August 8, at 6:00 p.m. at the Francis Wilson Playhouse Theater. In addition to an awe-inspiring evening, proceeds go to Youth for Human Rights Florida, a group dedicated in promoting the education of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to children and adults, to make a better world.
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Presented by International Youth Theater, “Annie Jr.” is based on the winner of seven Tony Awards Broadway show, “Little Orphan Annie”. But the August 8th production is above the ordinary as it is brought about by youth who love both the art of theater and the education of human rights and the evening will intertwine them both. A play written for children filled with funny lines, singing and dancing, it still carries a message of how children’s human rights can be so easily violated.
Producer Doria Kintzel, has engaged a dynamic cast of singers and dancers as young as two years of age, and a crew of youth that can do anything from design and paint the set, to create the wardrobe. If the feat of orchestrating all this isn’t phenomenal enough, this production is getting ready for opening night in a total of only three weeks time.
The director, Sky Kintzel, at age 14 is directing his second theatrical production, after debuting his career last year with “Into the Woods, Jr.”. Acting in Broadway plays since he was nine, Sky has played a variety of roles. He says his goals lie in the area of being an actor, but he wants to direct to get experience on the “other end” of being the actor. And experience he is getting, working with 40 young talented people is a job many could not do, at any age. “I like working with the kids,” says Sky. “Kids are very talented and ‘raw’. They have opinions but they are more accepting then adults to new ideas.”
But besides the director, all the actors and actresses are new to Broadway, and this is a new experience for them all.
The main character, Annie, is played by Tabs Marshall, age 11. She has been singing her whole life, but she is very excited about the show as this is her first Broadway stage production. Her goal in life is to go to Broadway, and she would leave tomorrow if she had the chance. “I love being Annie,” says Tabs, “because it’s fun singing lots of songs.” Tabs is also interested in human rights and thinks there should be a “Right to Laugh”. Although this is not an official human right, she has a good point when she makes you look at how would life be if you weren’t allowed to laugh?
Gabby Durand, who plays Miss Hannigan, is the oldest actress on stage at only 17. She commented how she plays a character completely unlike herself, as Miss Hannigan is hateful to children, where she enjoys working with the younger children. Gabby’s singing is so strong and confident it is hard to believe that she only started singing Broadway songs only one year ago.
Wearing a lot of pink clothes is not something Shir Ezra, age 10, does not do to define her personality, and that is exactly why she likes playing the character “Star-to-be”. “This character, dresses in pink, is rich and fancy, and not like me,” says Shir, “and I like playing a character who is totally different than the way I am. And what makes the part even more fun is all the singing.”
Arianna Lorenzini, age 11, plays the dogcatcher in the show, and according to Arianana that is cool because it is funny. She also has an extra responsibility as the Human Rights Ambassador for the production. Well educated in The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Arianna realized at a young age the importance of these rights. She feels people who do not have their human rights are not respected, and she wants to see all people respected.
Don’t be surprised if you see some crazy excitement when Joshua Marshall, age 15, struts onto the stage as the character of “Rooster”. Josh has been tap dancing since the age of three, but he is also trained in ballroom dancing, swing, pop and lock, and he will have a combination of moves that will excite and surprise the audience.
“Warbucks” is an older man who is a billion dollar corporation owner, but you would never know that the role is played by 12 year old, Connor Hillman, who does a great impersonation of the older man. Connor says he likes acting human rights, and feels that Human Right #19, Freedom of Expression, covers many areas such as the arts and free speech. “I like to be able to say what is on my mind,” says Connor. “That is probably why I like human rights.”
Playing two roles is a lot of fun for Miles Drazkowski, age 12, who is both Lt. Ward and Burt Heally. Miles likes acting as two characters as it shows more than one side to his acting abilities.
Not all the talent is on the stage during the production. Multi-talented Martina Zerbo, age 12, is the choreographer. Martina has danced all her life and been on stage since she was only 5 years old, but this is her first time working as a choreographer. Martina states, “My idea for the dances is simple but exciting. I keep it simple for the young kids to learn and exciting enough for the audience.” Martina will be choreographing for eleven songs in this short period of three weeks.
Young and talented is a good way to describe the behind the scenes crew. Set Design – Valentina Lorenzini, age 15, and Winston Seymour, age 12; Costumes – Sara Schneider, age 17;
Sound Effects – Sirio Balmelli, age 21
Producer Doria Kintzel chose “Annie Jr.” to entertain and to educate. When most people think of human rights violations, they think of refugees in war-torn countries or political prisoners. But children can have their human rights violated in many ways. For example, verbal, mental and physical abuse is a violation of Human Right #5 No Torture. And when children’s rights are violated it is in contradiction to Human Right #30 No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights. And of course, the production is a symbol of Human Right #19 Freedom of Expression, a freedom children of all ages should be able to experience.
International Youth Theater was formed in the summer of 2008 outside of Chicago. The company’s first production was “Into The Woods”. Now in it’s second year of production it has expanded to Clearwater, Florida, with the local debut of “Annie Jr.”, along with plans of many more productions. The mission of International Youth Theater is to assist the development of young artist while enlightening them on their abilities and responsibilities to help improve human rights around the world.
Tickets for the show are only , with VIP seating available upon request. You can purchase tickets by going online at www.internationalyouththeater.com. The August 8 performance is a one-time only benefit show for Youth for Human Rights of Tampa Bay.
The Francis Wilson Playhouse Theater is located at 302 Seminole Street, Clearwater, Florida 33755, (going north on Fort Harrison Street turn west just one traffic light north of Drew Street). For more information contact: International Youth Theater at 727-512-8889.
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