IF YOU GO
What: “Annie, the Musical”
Where: Powers Auditorium, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 11
Tickets: $28 ($23 for seniors and students, and $15 for children 12 and under), plus handling. Call 330-744-0264 or go to youngstownsymphony.com.
Also: Group discounts are available, as are “meet the cast” brunches and post-show cookies and autograph sessions. School performances are being offered at 10 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Teachers can get information by calling 330-743-8555.
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
It all started with “Annie.”
It was November 1983 when Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins met while in the cast of the musical at the Youngstown Playhouse and began their long theatrical collaboration.
A few years later they would form their own company. They named it Easy Street, after the song they sang as a duet in “Annie.”
As it nears its 25th anniversary, Easy Street Productions has come a long way.
To celebrate, the company is sparing no expense for a lavish production of “Annie” at Powers Auditorium this coming weekend.
And quite a few members of the original cast will be returning.
Don Creque is one of them. He returned from Las Vegas, where he moved in 2001, to reprise his role as Daddy Warbucks.
Creque has found that the role suits him better now.
“When we did ‘Annie’ at the Playhouse back in 1983, we were all very young,” he said. “I was 23, Todd was just out of high school, and Maureen was a few years older than me. I am actually now old enough to do Daddy Warbucks.”
Daddy Warbucks is the wealthy character who has everything in the world except someone to share it with. Annie becomes that person.
“What matters most is having people around you that mean something to you,” said Creque, who feels life has also made him understand the role better. “I have my two sons and my beautiful wife.”
Creque and his wife moved to Las Vegas when the gambling mecca was booming. He works in the building trades, which has ground to a halt because of the struggling economy. But the upside is that it gave him time to return to the stage for the first time in many years.
“I was asked many times to come back to Youngstown to do a show, but I couldn’t leave my work and family,” said Creque. “But now that the economy has slowed, it may have steered me back to what I want to do. This might be the first of several [stage appearances].”
Rehearsing for “Annie” has been a reunion for several others who were also in that 1983 production.
Stage veteran Tom O’Donnell will be back to reprise his role as Drake, the butler.
Virginia Hartman, who was one of the young orphans in the 1983 production, is also returning but in the role of Lilly St. Regis. Hartman is the director of Ballet Western Reserve.
Hancock and Collins are back in their original roles of the villainous Rooster and Miss Hannigan. They are also directing.
Also in the cast are WKBN weatherman Rich Morgan as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and WKBN news anchor Teresa Weakley as Grace Farrell, Daddy Warbucks’ secretary.
Rounding out the cast are James McClellan as radio host Bert Healy, and 11-year-old Cortney Mackay, making her stage debut in the title role.
Sandy the dog is a rescue dog from Angels for Animals, where they called him Harry.
Weakley’s involvement in “Annie” seemed like destiny.
The newscaster was involved in an event at Eastwood Mall about a year ago with Hancock. “I was thinking that she’d make a great Grace Farrell,” recalled Hancock. “So I asked her if she had ever done any acting, and she said she played Grace Farrell in ‘Annie’ when she was in high school or college. I said ‘you are not going to believe what I am about to ask you.’”
Easy Street’s production of “Annie” coincides with the return of the musical on Broadway, which also opens next weekend.
Professional-quality sets, props and costumes are being rented from the Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh for the production, which will be Easy Street’s first at Powers Auditorium since “The Music Man” in 2009.