By Mary Ann Bourbeau |
SPRING LAKE – Gwyneth Fahy wanted to play the role of Annie for years, possibly more than anyone has wanted to play the spunky little orphan. She began taking dance classes at the Spring Lake Community House at 5 years old and at age 6, she made her acting debut as Gretl in “The Sound of Music.”
She played many more roles in the years that followed. In 2015, Gwyneth was doing double duty as a street urchin in “Scrooge” and as an usher. While helping distribute fliers to the audience members about which shows they would like to see at the theater, Gwyneth politely asked them to check off “Annie.”
“Once her little conspiracy was discovered, she promised to refrain from future campaigning,” said Pat Barry, executive director of the Spring Lake Community House.
Although “Annie” had been produced four times in the past, it was still a top choice among audience members, so the theater board decided to stage it again this year.
“It never occurred to any of us that Gwyneth would be Annie,” said Barry. “We thought that she just wanted to be part of the show.”
Unbeknownst to anyone on staff, Gwyneth had been taking voice lessons. She also made a copy of the script and worked hard at memorizing her lines. When audition time came, they narrowed the casting down to six possible Annies, but 12-year-old Gwyneth blew the production staff away.
“We always knew that she had the perfect spunky personality of Annie,” said Barry. “She has more spirit and enthusiasm than 20 people. She proved to everyone that she can fill all of Annie’s shoes.”
Doug Moore, a perennial favorite at the venue, will reprise his role as Daddy Warbucks. He has been acting with the Spring Lake Theatre since a 1991 production of “A Chorus Line.”
“Doug is probably the most solid actor we’ve had on our stage,” said Barry.
Among the cast of 47 is Anne Miele, who will portray Daddy Warbucks’ assistant, Grace Farrell, and Mary Beth Dorman Jacobsen will play against type as the evil Miss Hannigan. Annie’s four-legged sidekick, Sandy, will be played by Duffy O’Dea of Spring Lake.
“Our first production of ‘Annie’ was in 1985, but every few years there’s a new crop of little girls who want to be in it or just see it,” said Barry. “It’s a real crowd pleaser.”
Annie opens on July 6 and runs through July 23.
Spring Lake Theatre’s second show this summer will be “The Music Man,” which runs from Aug. 17-27. The theater brought this production back again due to popular demand.
“Attendance is not as good as it used to be for straight plays,” said Barry. “We decided to do shows that people really want to see and ‘The Music Man’ was one of the top vote-getters. Our actors deserve an audience.”
The Spring Lake Theatre Company is an ornate, 350-seat venue housed inside the Spring Lake Community House, a Tudor-style mansion that is also home to the town library.
The building contains several large meeting rooms that are used for civic gatherings and music and theater classes that serve hundreds of students each year.
Oliver Brown, former mayor of Spring Lake and a state senator, dedicated the building in 1923. In the late ‘30s through early ‘50s, many notable actors such as Helen Hayes, Basil Rathbone and Paul Newman graced the stage in what was then known as the Ivy Tower Playhouse.
After its heyday, the theater stood dormant for many years until Barry, who had studied theater in college, produced a stripped-down version of “Bye Bye Birdie” there in 1978.
“We had no air conditioning and we had cardboard boxes for sets, but it was a lot of fun,” she said. “We loved the building, so we asked the town if we could do more plays as fundraisers for the Community House.”
The theater company now stages six family-friendly shows a year, including an annual production of “Scrooge.” Opening night ticket sales for each show are donated to area charities.
The Spring Lake Theatre Company is located at 300 Madison Ave., Spring Lake. For more information, call 732-449-4530 or visit www.springlaketheatre.com.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published in the Lifestyles section of the June 29-July 6, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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