One year. Eight thousand girls. One plucky, red-haired heroine.
Casting for director Scott Levy's production of "Annie" at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College wasn't nearly as rigorous as for the popular 1982 film version of the Tony Award-winning 1977 musical, but it was still intense.
Since June, Levy auditioned 60 to 70 girls from around the Pikes Peak region and greater Denver for the iconic role of the spirited orphan. Two 11-year-olds emerged victorious: Natalie Beaumont from Parker and Kennedy Ort from Monument.
"We were looking for singers, actors, dancers with an eerie level of wit and intelligence and spunkiness," Levy said. "The Annie character is in almost every scene of the play. We wanted to make sure we kept the energy high, and that was the reason to cast two."
"Annie" will preview Thursday at FAC at CC and open Friday. It runs through Jan. 7.
Harold Gray's popular comic strip Little Orphan Annie, which make its debut in 1924, inspired the musical version about a pre-teen who desperately wants to reconnect with the parents who abandoned her on the steps of a New York City orphanage lorded over by a mean alcoholic, Miss Hannigan (Sally Hybl). Circumstances change when billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Mark Rubald) and his assistant Grace (Jennifer DeDominici) show Annie what life could be like outside the orphanage, until the dastardly Rooster (Kevin Pierce) and Lily St. Regis (Rebecca Myers) pose as her long-gone parents for a chance at Warbucks' reward money.
It's been two decades since "Annie" has graced the FAC at CC's stage.
"I'm always drawn to Americana, particularly the early 20th century, which this is," Levy said. "The score is quite wonderful. And even though some of us have heard 'Tomorrow' enough times in life, it's a beautiful power ballad and a hopeful song. There's a level of optimism and hope and sunshine feeling. It's a very feel-good kind of piece."
Not to be forgotten is Sandy, the canine star of the show. The adorable mutt Annie finds wandering the streets will be played by a 2-year-old terrier mix who was transferred to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region this summer. She was shy at first, but staff members worked with her through the organization's wallflower program. She thrived under the attention and won Levy's heart. Sandy does have an interested adopter.
"She looks great, she's sweet, she kisses me. That's all it takes," Levy said. "Our Sandy looks a lot like the original cartoon. She's much more scruffy."
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM