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Farragut Middle School Musical "Annie Jr." Premieres

(See the performance on YouTube here.)

Ators Farragut Middle School students are sticking out their chins and grinning on stage this week.

The seventh and eighth-grade musical “Annie Jr.” premiered virtually Friday night to a hefty online crowd. Adapted from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Annie,” the production brought the crowd back to Depression-era New York City to meet a girl in a municipal orphanage. The actors rehearsed and performed the musical via Zoom, but none complained of a ‘hard knock life.’

Poster “I don't think it was a complete challenge,” said tech crew member Sylvie Black, adding that working on the play was “a nice way to connect with people.”

Black, who is in seventh grade, worked with other crewmembers to design and draw the virtual sets. Although she wasn’t on stage this year, she appreciated being able to choose which scene she drew and how.

“I personally liked the idea of feeling that I could have so much creative freedom with this,” she said. “I'm still a part of something, it's just we're doing it a little differently.”

For performers, it was more difficult to synchronize songs and coordinate the musical numbers.

“It is more challenging over Zoom because you can’t hear anyone else who is singing,” said Emma Schlacter who performed as Pepper in the musical. “You can’t really ask people for help or see how they do their parts.”

Though Schlacter, an eighth-grader, found the task challenging, she did find an upside.

“You have more time to focus on your own acting skills and your singing,” she said. “Working on stage, it is more of a group thing but for this you’re just focusing on your part and what you’re supposed to do.”

For the directors, the challenges were similar to what they have experienced before. Choral Director Jonathan Riss works digitally with student vocalists every day, while Technical Director Gillian Husovsky worked on a previous musical using Zoom this year. Yet, both noted one difference this time around.

“I've gotten more positive feedback ahead of the show going up than I ever have,” said Riss.

“Making music together certainly was a wonderful thing psychologically, not just for the cast members but also for me, so it was good to hear.”