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Photo by New Tampa Players

When most people think about the musical Annie, they think of "Tomorrow" and a little girl with bright red hair. Director KariAnn Stamatoplos thinks there is so much more to the classic story. It's not just Annie, but Daddy Warbucks who gets his chance to shine in New Tampa Players production of Annie on August 3-12 at University Area CDC.

KariAnn said that she believes that the overall theme of the musical is about finding someone to love and being loved back - whether it be Annie or Daddy Warbucks in search of a connection.

"My vision for Annie is treating the characters like they are real people from history," she said. "Obviously there are some historical facts in the show and we do have some historical characters like FDR and his cabinet, but I want to treat all the characters like their story truly happened."

Assistant directed by Charis Lavoie, musically directed by G. Frank Meekins, and choreographed by Mallory Quinn, Annie features a large cast of 45 actors, of which 25 are children ages 7-14:

Annie Sardouk, Arielle Black-Diamond, Sophie Mitchell, Celeste Wilson, Ella Simmons, Madison Levine, Melanie Rusoff, Olivia Carr, Sophie Farnan, Cheyenne McGrory, Jade Ethier, Samantha Jones, Ava Shimmel, Alyssa Black-Diamond, Rick Faurote, Brianna Filippelli, Kelly Nowicki, Cameron Levine, Alexis Jones, Ryan Keene, Lena Morisseau, Alexa McGrory, Pavonne Scott, Elliott Rusoff, James Cass, Chelsea Orvis, Isaiah Johnson, Autumn McNew, Jalena Smith, Kat Mitchell, Megan Guthrie, Katie Welch, Melissa Vinnedge, Monica Paine, Cathi Velez, Amanda Schapiro, Justin Knisley, Lauren Matthews, Emily Kochanski, Michele Roberson, Scott Paine, Alex Alfonso, Chelsie Smith, Kiera Velez, Zoe Paine, Juliana Flores, Raegan Tucker, Abbey Yokum, Sarah Roberson, Morgan Sheriff, and Amiri Warrener star in the New Tampa Players' production.

KariAnn even added an optional Daddy Warbucks' song "Why Should I Change a Thing" that many may be unfamiliar.

"It's a beautiful song about his inner struggles. (He's thinking) Everything is doing fine. Why do I want change things - upset the apple cart at this point in my life. I think we can identify with Daddy Warbucks as adults, whether we're rich or not," she said.

At the end of that song, Daddy Warbucks makes a life-changing decision.

Twelve-year-old actress Annie Sardouk is so dedicated to the craft, her locks are now dyed to match the role in which she won the lead - Annie.

Performing as Annie is especially poignant, as at 12 this is probably her last opportunity to play her favorite role. A fifth-grade music teacher first introduced her to the musical Annie Jr. and the then shy youngster was cast as the lead, caught the acting bug and learned how to come out of her shell. She discovered she won the role in this production when her parents took her to dinner and presented her with a locket.

Annie said that her character namesake is a lot like herself - Tough and firm to some people and kind and loving to others, like a maternal figure.

"She doesn't care about what other people think about her," she said. "She is herself - completely optimistic no matter what.

I want the audience to feel like that we put on a fun show. I really love it at NTP. All the cast members are really great friends, no matter which role you are. We were always laughing and having a great time while rehearsing. I want the audience to love it."

Both KariAnn and Annie agreed that the overall message that the audience should take away from Annie is being accepted and loved for who we are.

KariAnn said, "You can reach out to others in your community to form family. It's all about having love and being kind to those people and taking that into everyday life."

New Tampa Players' Annie, in collaboration with the University Area CDC and produced with the support of the Hillsborough County Arts Council and Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners and support from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, runs Friday, August 3-12 at the University Area CDC: 14013 N. 22nd Street, Tampa. Showtimes are Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2pm & 8pm, and Sundays 2pm. Tickets are available at and at the door.

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From This Author Deborah Bostock-Kelley