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Published: Friday, 7/23/2004

A really big show: Cast, crew of more than 100 ready to put on 'Annie' in Bryan

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
For the Fountain City Festival's production of Annie, the orphans are played by (from left, starting with the front row) Emily Grisier, Megan Steel, and Sarah Elting; second row: Brittany Kolb (hand under chin), Kristen Kurivial as Annie, Jessica Stark, and Melissa Tippin; third row: Alexa Jones; back row: Aubry Hagadorn, Shana Flores, and Maddy Plouck. Missing is Danielle Delgado. For the Fountain City Festival's production of Annie, the orphans are played by (from left, starting with the front row) Emily Grisier, Megan Steel, and Sarah Elting; second row: Brittany Kolb (hand under chin), Kristen Kurivial as Annie, Jessica Stark, and Melissa Tippin; third row: Alexa Jones; back row: Aubry Hagadorn, Shana Flores, and Maddy Plouck. Missing is Danielle Delgado.
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When Carol Kurivial talks about Annie, the musical she's directing in Bryan, Ohio, the words tumble out of her mouth and the telephone line vibrates with her enthusiasm.

"Most people think of Annie as a show for children, and it really is a show for all ages, she said. "It's such a historical piece, a period piece. It's so nostalgic. There are lots of wonderful lines in the show and the only folks who are going to catch the references are the older folks. It's got something for everyone, and I think people of all ages will be thoroughly entertained from start to finish."

Annie is a production of the Fountain City Festival, a Bryan organization that puts on a major show each summer, Kurivial said. And when she says "major," she means it.

"We've basically been in production since about mid April. We have about 55 folks involved in the cast and about 25 in the pit orchestra. We have a production team of about 12 and a bunch on the stage crews. There are more than 100 people working on the show."

Annie, based on the comic strip by Harold Gray, is about an 11-year-old orphan who finds a home during the Depression with millionaire financier Daddy Warbucks. The Bryan production, which opened last night, runs through Aug. 1 in the Bryan Arts and Education Center, a block west of the town square.

Annie is played by 13-year-old Kristen Kurivial, the director's daughter. Kurivial said that because her daughter was among the 50 youngsters seeking a role in the production, she turned the responsibility of casting Annie and the rest of the orphans over to a three-member auditioning team. "I waited backstage with the rest of the nervous parents," she said.

Kristen got the role, and Kurivial admitted she's delighted. "It's been a really wonderful experience for me and my daughter; we've had a wonderful bonding time. Professionally, I'm very satisfied with the work that she's doing. She's had to stretch, because she's not a natural Annie personality. She's had to work very hard to play this part."

Kurivial is equally delighted with the rest of her cast.

Daddy Warbucks is played by Joe Rath, a salesman for Cutco. "This is his 45th production," Kurivial said. "What's interesting is that his very first production was in Annie back in high school; he played a cabinet member. He came in, read like two lines, and I looked at the other directors and said, "I think we have our Daddy Warbucks.' He was good to go right from the start."

The pivotal role of Miss Hannigan, the wicked head of the orphanage, was won by Diane Harvey, who is entering her sophomore year at Ohio Weslayan University. She did quite a bit of theatrical work in high school, Kurivial said, but because Hannigan is such a flamboyant character, Harvey "has had to really challenge herself. She's working hard and is doing a great job."

The cast comes from all over the area; among towns represented are Mont

pelier, Stryker, Defiance, and Hudson, Mich. "There are some people who really have put in the miles coming back and forth to our practices," Kurivial said.

"The themes and issues of Annie deal with the Depression, the New Deal, unemployment, and homelessness, but the part of the show that we really want to focus on is the message of optimism," Kurivial said.

"Annie had a miserable existence, but she chooses complete optimism, and it's our hope that the folks who come to see our show will be inspired to take on a little of that optimism and when they leave, they leave with a more joyful heart."

"Annie" is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. today, tomorrow, and July 30 and 31. A 2 p.m. matinee is scheduled Aug. 1 in the Bryan Arts and Education Center, Beech and High streets, two blocks west of the Bryan courthouse. Tickets, $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for youngsters 13 and younger, are available at the Bryan Chamber of Commerce office, 138 South Lynn St. Information: 419-636-2247.

One of Neil Simon's enduring classics (it was 39 years old in March) is about the wreckage left over after marriages end. It's a comedy of course.

The Huron Playhouse in Huron, Ohio, is presenting The Odd Couple this week as the penultimate production of its summer 2004 season.

The story is one of two long-time friends, the recently divorced Oscar Madison and the newly separated Felix Unger. Oscar invites Felix to share an apartment, not realizing that each other's quirks may be fun over the poker table but are a different matter when they are faced on a daily basis. The roommates, in fact, find themselves fighting the same battles that they fought in their marriages.

Oscar, played by Bob Russell of Rocky River, Ohio, is a slob, the kind of person who leaves towels on the bathroom floor, pushes the toothpaste from the middle (and doesn't put the cap back on), and waits until every dish is dirty before washing up.

Felix, played by Adam Marier of Columbus, is Oscar's opposite: fastidious, compulsively neat, excessively concerned about germs. He's the kind of person who arranges the spice rack in alphabetical order, vacuums every day, and never uses any food past its freshness date.

Throw in the rest of the poker-playing buddies (J.D. Hennig, Bob Allen, Kevin Beebee, Tony Vinup) and two playful British sisters (Liz Emmerling and Alisa Cutcher), and the situation begs for laughs.

Ron Ruble of Huron, professor emeritus of Bowling Green State University's Firelands College, directs the comedy, with A.J. Guban of Mogadore, Ohio, providing the scenic designs.

"The Odd Couple" is scheduled at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow in the Huron Playhouse in McCormick School, 325 Ohio St., Huron. Tickets are $11 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and $7 for those younger than 12. Information: 419-433-4744.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.


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