Want to raise an arts-loving child? A great first step for introducing kids to theater is to expose them to musicals. Not sure what musical is best for the first-time theater-goer? I recommend the Tony-award winning show “Annie!” This timeless musical has been around for 37 years and audiences still can’t get enough. Who didn’t sing, “The sun will come out tomorrow!” along with that adorable, red-headed orphan girl in the 80s? Annie oozes optimism, even during The Depression, while waiting for her parents to come back to get her from an orphange. But in the meantime, her life gets turned up-side down when a billionaire requests an orphan to stay with him. Sure, the storyline is predictable, but new generations will adore Annie. My daughter and I were invited to see Annie at Hollywood Pantages Theatre. We were not disappointed. The sets were fabulous, the cast was splendid and the songs were sung to perfection!
My daughter loved seeing the young actress, Issie Swickle, cast as Annie perform. What little girl doesn’t picture herself in that red dress and curly hair? My favorite performer from the evening was Lynn Andrews who played Miss Hannigan. I have to admit I always have a hard time with the performers for that character. I compare every Miss Hannigan actress to Carol Burnett. In my eyes, she will always be Miss Hannigan! But Lynn Andrews had attitude, sarcasm and the right about of evil to pull off the role. Plus, she made everyone in the theater laugh. The children did a fabulous job belting out “Hard Knock Life” and my favorite song from the evening was “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”. Plus, Sandy! That was one well-trained dog!
If this is your child’s first-time seeing Annie or attending the theater, here are some tips and fun activities to get them prepared for the experience.
* If your child is new to Annie, have them watch the 1982 film (my personal favorite) or the latest from last year! Both movies will give kids a chance to learn the story line, meet the characters and memorize the memorable songs. Believe me! They’ll never forget them.
* Teach them theater terminology (i.e. ushers, intermission, will call, curtain, orchestra, etc). Speaking of orchestra, take a walk up to the orchestra for a look at the instruments! My daughter noticed that the drum set had a Plexiglas wall around it. What do you think that’s for?
* Show them the theater seating map online and where your seats are located.
* Explain theater jobs like lighting, musicians, sound technician and producers. There is so much involved in putting on a live show! Everyone should get a standing O for their involvement.
* Younger kids probably want to know why the theater will get dark and audience quiet. Let them know that the lights will go back on and when it’s time to be silent.
* Explain musicals as a genre versus other types of theater performances. Experiment in the car by singing your conversation about the show or if you have the CD or an MP3 player, play the music from Annie to get them excited!
* Get them excited about the theater traditions. Clapping, standing ovations, autographs on the Playbill and waiting at the Stage door. If you’re lucky enough to attending opening night, there is a chance you’ll get to see other celebrities at the show! We saw Mario Lopez, the kids from Modern Family and others!
* Clothing tip – it’s nice to dress fancy, but make sure that the clothes aren’t uncomfortable thus making the kids fidgety and unable to focus on the show. To add to their comfort, I also sneak in some quiet snacks (nothing crunchy or with loud wrappers) to help them enjoy the entire show. Or visit the concession stand for candy and drinks during Intermission.
Annie has a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes including the Intermission time. There are two women’s bathrooms and the lines can be long. I recommend going to the one to the right of the theater entrance. Children under 3 are not permitted and ticket prices start at $25 in the orchestra section.
Opening night at Pantages was thrilling! My daughter loved getting dressed up, and she was on the edge of her seat mesmerized by the children on stage.We all loved singing along to the score. The audience rewarded the cast with a standing ovation. My daughter eagerly joined in with applause and bravos! Children won’t want it to end, but maybe they can spend their allowance at the merchandise booth opened at the end of the show. Plan your next family-night out at Pantages for Annie or other musicals that are coming to town. For more information go to http://hollywoodpantages.com/index.php. Annie is showing now through November 1!