ANNIE Opens Tonight at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, Runs ThroughToday

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Everyone's favourite musical is brought to life in all its glory in a heart-warming stage production that will appeal to the child in all of us. The hit family musical Annie entertains audiences young and old at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse now through December 23rd.

A rags-to-riches story about a determined young girl's journey from a New York orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks, Annie is beloved the world over. Boasting one of Broadway's most unforgettable scores, including "Hard-Knock Life," "Easy Street," "N.Y.C." and the ever optimistic "Tomorrow," this dynamic show is certain to provide families with memories to cherish for years to come.

"We are delighted by the response to Annie" says Artistic Director Alex Mustakas. "This production features some of Canada's top theatrical talent and audiences can't help but be amazed by the calibre of the performance. The result is a wonderfully entertaining musical for theatregoers of all ages."

Annie is more vibrant and heartfelt than ever under Mustakas' well-crafted direction, which includes a sizeable cast of 16 professional actors, 41 local children and a live dog. Mustakas' imaginative staging brings this treasured story to life with all the charm and exuberance that audiences expect from this energetic musical.

Music Director Michael Lerner leads an expert band through poignant ballads, comedic songs, and show-stopping production numbers that captivate the audience and leave everyone humming as they leave the theatre.

Choreographer Gino Berti creates exuberant choreography that perfectly complements both the intimate scenes and the grand ensemble numbers.

Jean Claude Olivier has designed a remarkable set with painted drops that are simply stunning, while Lighting Designer Kevin Fraser generates the perfect mood for each stirring scene.

An impressive cast has been assembled for this effort including Dominique Le Blanc as Annie. Annie is a big role for a little girl, and this 13-year old newcomer proves she has the perfect combination of talent and charisma to hold her own alongside many notable leading performers. Her marvellous voice and feisty demeanour immediately win over the audience and keep everyone rooting for the beloved red-haired imp. This natural performer seems right at home on stage and delivers the famous songs "Maybe" and "Tomorrow" with remarkable ease.

Revered Canadian actor Victor A. Young is ideally suited for the role of Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks. Young delivers a well-rounded performance of the self-made man of industry for whom nothing seems a challenge until his heart is captured by the irrepressible orphan. Young has appealing chemistry with his pint-sized co-star, especially in the charming duet "I Don't Need Anything But You." A multi-faceted talent, Young played the role of Andrew Wyke earlier this season in Sleuth.

Jackie Mustakas is outstanding as infamous orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan, portraying the scheming antagonist with the perfect balance of villainy and humour. Mustakas captivated audiences last season as the Wicked Witch of the West in the hit production of The Wizard of Oz.

Jayne Lewis hits all the right notes as Warbucks' astute personal assistant Grace Farrell, delivering a compelling performance opposite Young, her real-life husband. Drayton audiences adored Lewis in her portrayal of the imposing secretary in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying last season and, earlier this year, as Betty Chumley in Harvey at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.

Perennial audience favourite Keith Savage is as lively and comical as ever as Miss Hannigan's scheming brother, Rooster. Melissa Thomson-Hicks forms a great double-act with Savage as Rooster's delightfully devious and alluring girlfriend, Lily St. Regis. When Savage and Thomson-Hicks join forces with Mustakas for the hit number "Easy Street" the result is a genuine showstopper.

Patric Masurkevitch plays a convincing President Franklin D. Roosevelt, while Kevin Etherington engages audiences with his lovable style and impeccable timing as Bert Healy among other roles.

Rounding out the stellar ensemble are Rachel Clark, Stephen Cota, Joanna Guistini, Jill Harland, Sarah Harries, Sarah Matton, Chad McFadden and Arthur Wright.

Annie would not be complete without her favourite canine companion. Ten-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Chedabucto Bluenose, affectionately nicknamed 'Blue', takes on the role of Sandy, the lovable street dog that Annie adopts on her journey from the orphanage to Warbucks' mansion.

Local up-and-coming performers Kaitlin Angus, Ayshia Anne Bailie, Kate Barry, Brooke Bauer, Jessie Bauer, Hannah Carr, Madison Carroll, Cheyenne Chandler-Strub, Claire Couturier, Terese Dimeck, Jessi Elgood, Sarah Elop, Adrienne Enns, Katherine Fischer, Sarah Rose Grainger, Avery Grierson, Ella Koller, Belle Lemieux-Chan, Liz Mallory, Cailyn Mann, Danika McHugh-Scott, Emma Moroni, Thyra Morton, Kaleigh Murphy, Hadley Mustakas, Ella Nafziger, Rebecca Perry, Lauren Roth, Hayley Anne Schroder. Madison Sekulin, Morgan Thibeault, Violet Vaughn, Cecilia "CC" Weber, Emily Weir, Payton Wentzlaff, Sarah Werezak, Caroline Wiechers, Audrey White, Spencer Wither, Emma Wolle and Lillian Ziss rotate in groups to portray the orphans. "Hard Knock Life" is a standout number showcasing these young performers' boundless energy and delivering cuteness in spades.

Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, Annie burst into popularity in 1977 when it opened on Broadway. It won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book (Thomas Meehan) and Best Score (Charles Strouse), the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, seven Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, and the Grammy Award for Best Cast Show Album. After running for nearly six years in its originating venue, Annie has played in over twenty-two countries worldwide including the United Kingdom, Argentina, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Australia. Annie continues to be one of the most successful musicals ever.

The production played to packed houses earlier this season at the King's Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene and the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend, and is assured similar success at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. "Annie is without a doubt one of the biggest hits of the season," says Mustakas. "I strongly advise theatregoers to order tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment."

Annie enjoys a six-week engagement at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse until December 23rd. Tickets are selling quickly with some performances already sold out. Tickets can be purchased online at www.stjacobscountryplayhouse.com, in person at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse Box Office or by calling (519) 747-7788 or toll free 1-855-372-9866.

Pictured: Dominique Le Blanc as Annie with Victor A. Young as Oliver Warbucks.

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