BWW Interview: Chatting with Newcomer Jenny Weisz from Toronto's ANNIE
It's an exciting holiday theatre season in Toronto, with lots of great options for children and grown ups alike! One option which is bound to appeal to people of all ages is the classic tale of ANNIE - being presented by Young People's Theatre and starring newcomer Jenny Weisz in the iconic role.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't know the story of Annie (or it's timeless tunes such as 'Tomorrow', 'Hard Knock Life' and 'Maybe') but it's been a long time since Toronto had a professional production on stage in the city.
Annie tells the story of a precocious little redheaded orphan and her dog, Sandy, who escape the orphanage where they were residing (under the villainous Miss Hannigan) in order to go off in search of her parents. She ends up encountering an eccentric billionaire and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt along the way, as well as manages to get involved in all kinds of scrappy situations.
In the iconic role is newcomer Jenny Weisz, and 'Annie' marks her very first professional gig after graduating from Theatre Sheridan this past year. BWW sat down to talk with her about playing the famous little redheaded girl, reaching her dream of performing with YPT and her musical theatre influences:
You open in less than two days - how are things coming along?
It's incredible! It's been a great process with a wonderful cast and we've got great character actors which I think makes it extra special.
What is different about your version of 'Annie' compared to others people may have seen?
I think we are taking a bit of a different approach compared to the typical Broadway version - almost a bit more realistic? Diane Leah has added some incredible new arrangements, Allen has added different sequences and it's very exciting for the audience. Obviously the fact that we are adults playing children makes it unique as well. I think it works really well. Plus if people find it odd that adults are playing children, they have to consider that as actors we are trained to play ANY role - so why can't we play a child?
This is your very first production out of theatre school! Can you tell us a bit about what the process was like and how you came to be 'Annie'?
I have been going to YPT for as long as I can remember. I went with my family every year, I went with my school and I've seen the majority of the productions as an adult too. I took classes there, went to Sheridan and knew that there wasn't any other career path for me. When I graduated I signed with Rhonda Cooper and the Character's Agency and I knew I had to audition for YPT because I've wanted to work there forever. They inspired me to do theatre - it was the best part of my year seeing a show there and I wanted to give other kids that experience. I auditioned for the generals and got called back for Annie twice - and then I got it. It was fantastic and pretty much a dream come true.
How are you attempting to put your own stamp on the role?
Well, no one is going to think that I'm eleven years old, but I'm definitely trying to bring the iconic Annie to the production and also a bit of myself. As kids we all have hopes and dreams and fall asleep making a wish and I think that's exactly what Annie does. She's just louder with her dreams. So I hope to bring that truth out of her character.
What is the most challenging part of being an adult playing a child?
Finding the genuine naivete and innocence of the characters. Half of her lines are only two words - oh boy and oh gee are her favourite things to say. She's so simple and honest with her opinions. Giving into that feeling of everything being new for the first time can be hard.
The other day we had kids come in and watch and there was a young girl who wanted to meet me - that's the best part of doing this. The excitement in her face was exactly the type of excitement I'm trying to have as Annie when she first sees NYC or first meets Oliver Warbucks.
How does it feel to now be someone that the kids are looking up to?
It's incredible and all I could ever ask for. The best feeling in the world. That little girl made my day and gave me a reason to do the show that night. I had a person in mind the whole time.
Who are some of your musical theatre influences?
Louise Pitre is definitely someone I've always looked up to, and people like Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook, Audra MacDonald and Kristin Chenoweth. The true classics and the women who can do it all. So having someone like Louise in this show and watching her process is awesome.
I bet she makes a great Miss Hannigan...
She really does. The kids will hate her - but in a great way.
What would be your ultimate dream role?
Definitely Anne in Anne of Green Gables in Charlottetown. Just to get out to the Island and perform would be amazing. Plus I've had so many friends in the show and I've auditioned for it and I think it would be an awesome experience. Others would include Olive in Spelling Bee or Little Red in Into the Woods... Basically the little redheaded girls!
What's your favourite Annie song?
Definitely 'Tomorrow' because I get to work with the dog! Who could ask for a better scene partner than a beautiful golden retriever - and 'Anything but You' with Sterling Jarvis.
If you had to choose, what would be your top five Musical Theatre Records?
1. The New Godspell Record
2. Spelling Bee
3. Into the Woods
4. Company (with Raul Esparza)
5. Once on This Island
6. And the one I don't want to admit too... I'm a RENThead ;)
We know all the reasons for kids to come and see Annie, but why would you recommend the production for adults?
It's a revamped version of Annie that's not just for kids. It will remind you what Annie is all about. It's about hope for the future and for dreams that can come true, and remembering that if you fight for what you believe in you can find that light at the end of the tunnel. It's a musical for everyone that's also a Cinderella story about hope and believing in yourself. If a kid can do it, we all can do it. And I think this will remind people of that.
When and Where?
Young People's Theatre presents ANNIE
On stage Nov 11th-Dec 29th, 2013
Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at or online at http://www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca/shows-tickets/annie/