Community Theatre Players’ ‘Annie’ opens this weekend

Lonnie Ford performs as billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in the Community Theatre Players’ production of “Annie,” opening Saturday at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — There’s a W.C. Fields quote that’s known by actors young and old: “Never work with animals or children.” Funny enough, the Community Theatre Players’ production of “Annie” has both, with 22 child actors and one dog.

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts will host “Annie” for the next two weekends.

Based off the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” the musical follows the titular red-headed 11-year-old as she makes her way from a down and out Depression-era orphanage for girls to the swanky mansion of billionaire Daddy Warbucks.

Annie is played by two girls, Ally Bourgeois and Morgan Olsen, on alternating nights. Bourgeois said she likes splitting up the performances because her voice “would not survive through seven shows.”

The two girls try to approach the role in the same way, but their age difference creates some natural variations.

Ally Bourgeois as Annie hugging Sandy who’s played by Jackson Carter in the Community Theatre Players’ “Annie.” (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“We’re pretty similar,” Olsen said, “but [Bourgeois] is younger, so she gets more smiley and happy.”

“Our voices are kind of different because she’s older,” Bourgeois said. “Morgan sounds more mature.”

The two have an exciting passion for theater and would like to act when they’re older.

Bourgeois has been performing in musicals since she was 4 years old. Her first role was as a pony in “A Christmas Peter Pan.” This is her first time working with adults and animals.

“I’ve always done just children theater, so this is awesome,” she said.

Antonette McLaughlin plays Miss Hannigan, the head of the orphanage who’s constantly sipping from her flask. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Olsen said she looks to actress Meryl Streep and Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton,” for inspiration when it comes to her acting career. Olsen said she appreciates all the chances she gets to be on stage, living in the Tri-Lakes.

“There’s a lot of opportunities here for people who want to be in theater, no matter how young or old you are,” she said.

Annie’s dog Sandy is played by the perpetually smiling Jackson Carter. “Annie” is about having an indomitable can-do attitude, and Carter is the perfect reflection of that. A pet never looked so happy.

Bourgeois and Olsen use a series of hand gestures to command the dog. If they wave their hands down, Jackson knows to lie on the ground. If they kneel down and pat their shoulders, Jackson will give them hugs and lick their faces.

In one scene, Annie has to convince a police officer that Sandy, a dog she met only a few moments prior, is hers so that he doesn’t get taken away to the pound. At rehearsal, Bourgeois and Olsen slapped their knees and called out, “Here, Sandy. C’mon boy.” Sometimes the dog would promptly follow the command, and sometimes it would take him a second, but in a way, it added some warranted humor to the scene. Watching Annie desperately trying to fool this cop, and the dog being hesitant seems appropriate given the context of the scene.

From left, MaryCatherine Jaldos (Grace), Morgan Olsen (Annie) and Lonnie Ford (Warbucks) during a rehearsal for “Annie.” (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Despite some minor hiccups, Bourgeois and Olsen love working with Jackson and think he is well-trained, adorable talent.

Lonnie Ford plays Annie’s rich adopted father, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. Much like Annie’s iconic red hair, Warbucks is recognized for his shiny, bald head. Ford’s never shaved his head in his life, but it’s a small price to pay to act comfortably.

“It beats putting spirit gum in your hair and trying to put a skull cap on,” he said. “Warbucks is a fun role because I get to go on stage and yell at everyone.”

Ford said the camaraderie between the actors, stage crew and production staff is what makes the Community Theatre Players such a special group.

“The keyword is ‘Community,'” he said. “The stars are not stars. They’re acting and singing, but also changing sets and pulling in the curtains. Everybody pitches in.

“Watching the whole thing come together is really magical, and it’s fun to be part of the magic.”

If you go…

What: Community Theatre Players’ performance of “Annie”

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 19 and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 20 and 7 p.m. May 25, 26 and 1 p.m. May 26, 27

Where: Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Ave.

How much: Adult, senior citizen and children tickets are $22, $17 and $12, respectively.