Creative Theater Production of “Annie” Made Us Fall in Love with Theater Again

We went to see the production of  “Annie” at the Creative Theater in Pigeon Forge and it made us fall in love with theater all over again. I had seen pictures and good reviews on social media of this production, but was even more impressed after seeing it with my own eyes. Take someone special there this week because the performances are wonderful. Now, I will tell you seven reasons why I enjoyed the performance and why you need to see “Annie” this week. 

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1. The Personal Connection

I was initially interested in seeing the production with my sister and her family because the young actress in the lead role is good friends with my niece. They are in the same class together at school in Morristown. We had to come and support her talented best friend!

 

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And we love dogs! What a cute pup for the role of ‘Sandy.’

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The screenshot above shows the four shows  left this week. IMG_6956 2

2. The Quality

This musical was a hit in 1977 and it is a hit now in Pigeon Forge. I expected a good performance; however, the production set a high standard—and met it. I forgot that I was not in Knoxville, Nashville, Atlanta, or even the theater district in NYC. Acting and voices were wonderful. Costumes were beautiful (or beautifully shabby in the case of the orphans) and the sets were so interesting. Part of the fun of the show is when you see the stage changed from one scene to the next. It is fun to see the change.

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We bought tickets in the balcony and were ready for the show to begin by seven o’clock.

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As you can see, the theater is a nice size with a main floor and a balcony. You can also see the stage and how they change the sets.

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If you sit in the balcony, the safety rail will be in your line of sight, but you get used to it. After a minute, your eyes will be riveted to the stage below.

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3.  The Music

Everyone knows at least two songs from this musical: “Hard-Knock Life” and “Tomorrow.” You will want to sing along and may recognize a few more tunes. In the photo above, the ‘orphans’ were adorable and everyone hit their marks. The young actors kept the pace lively.

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4. Nostalgia and History

This was one of my favorite scenes in the show for several reasons. First, I enjoyed seeing the group together and hearing the ‘Cabinet’ sing. Second, the actor portraying Franklin Roosevelt was so authentic in his portrayal that FDR seemed to ‘come back to life’ in 2019. Third, I knew that they invited a guest to do a cameo for the evening, but didn’t know when he would appear. Follow Creative Theater on Facebook and you will know who to expect in the cameo each day. Our cameo actor for the evening  is pictured above, second from the right.

 

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I know that he had so much fun!

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The musical takes place during the Great Depression so the audience will see historical and cultural references that bring back memories. The radio show and commercials did that for me. The poor people walking in the city reminded us of the hard times during the Great Depression. Presidents were mentioned, like Hoover and FDR. The portrayal of the president was perfection.

5.  Feelings

A good stage production will make you think and it will evoke feelings. “Annie” did both for me.  I found myself smiling during most of the production. I smiled. I tapped my feet and hummed. Surprisingly, a tear even came to my eyes during the first playing of the song “Tomorrow.” It must be the most well known tune from the show, with a theme of optimism in spite of life’s battles. If you listen to the words and think of someone fighting a battle right now then you may also fight back a tear as well.

6. Red Carpet Picture

I had seen a friend post a special picture on Facebook where they looked like they were on a red carpet, standing under a movie marquee. My niece and I found the spot during  the 15 minute intermission and were able to take a picture with ‘Sandy,’ the dog. There was no charge, just a suggestion to show it on social media in order to help publicity.

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This was a wonderful souvenir and we were delighted. What a special touch to an already special event! Make sure that you take your camera/phone and do this by the end of intermission.

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The second act will fly by too quickly so enjoy it!

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I love the curtain call at the end of a play when the actors are recognized for their work.

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What wonderful young performers!

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These were formidable actors in sinister/comedic roles.

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Miss Hannigan was superb!

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Ron Solomon played Oliver Warlocks perfectly and had a wonderful singing voice. It was a pleasure to witness his scenes. Laura Taliferro played a kind Grace Farrell, secretary to Warbucks. I felt transported by her voice as well. She truly had a wonderful aura about her that surpassed the stage.

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A standing ovation for Jennie Marie Davis and the entire cast of “Annie!”

7.  Meeting the Cast

I have never attended a performance where you could meet the cast after the show. You will get to do that at the Creative Theater and it is magical!

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The lead actress celebrates with classmates and home town friends from Morristown.

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These three actors really ‘chewed up the scenery’ and made their marks on the musical. Marvin West was excellent as the policeman and FDR. You forgot that he was in character because it seemed so real. The audience could not control their laughter during the scenes with Jonathan Weathersby (Rooster) and Turner Morris (Lily St. Regis). I will not give away that scene, but it was the high point of the comedy for us. So funny!

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Don’t be shy! During the ‘meet and greet’ after the show, congratulate the actors and get a picture to remember the show. I always wanted my picture with another president!

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We left the theater and walked out to our cars, thinking about what a fantastic show that we had just witnessed in our own county. There are different kinds of theaters here, but this one is quite special. It is a community theater that allows community member to take part in productions and to try different aspects of the stage. It can help teach beginners while letting veterans shine!

Growing up in Morristown, we would go see performances at the Morristown Theater Guild. In fact, I first saw “Fiddler on the Roof” there and have never forgotten it. It was magical. In the same sense, I truly enjoyed the performance of “Annie” at the Creative Theater and am thinking about going again this week. Make sure you see this show while you still have a chance. It is amazing theater and made us fall in love with it all over again. 

You will too!

Here is the link to the Facebook page. Keep up with upcoming shows, photos, and video feeds after the performances.

https://www.facebook.com/creativetheatergroup/

 

An Epic Reunion: SCHS Choir Celebration Concert, May 2018

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Reunions are common this time of year, but the one that took place on May 20th was an epic event. The Sevier County High School Choir performed a Celebration Concert with alumni that harkened back 25 years. Two choral directors, teachers, students, and family joined together for an amazing musical moment. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!

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The SCHS Celebration Concert was led by three teachers. Mistress of Ceremonies was Ms. Jean Burkhart, director of the Seymour High School Choir (pictured left). The concert was directed by Nathan Rhea (center) and Peg Brasfield Welch (pictured right). Nathan is an SCHS graduate from the Class of 2000 and current director of the SCHS Choir. Peg Brasfield Welch served as SCHS Choral Director from 1991-2009 and was Nathan’s teacher at SCHS.

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I walked in just in time to get a good seat in the performance hall of the Parkway Church of God. Since there were a few minutes before showtime, I got up to say hello to some very special people.

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It is always so nice to see retired SCHS Principal, Gary Roach. He and his wife had arrived from Florida in time to see this event. Pictured left to right: Nathan Rhea, Gary Roach, and Peg Brasfield Welch.

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Ryah Parkhurst and Deborah Webb waiting for the performance to begin. Deborah is a Fine Arts teacher and has known the two choir directors for many years.

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The ‘Welcome’ and Opening Prayer were delivered by Mr. Roach. He is always interesting to listen to and we know that there will be a good story in the mix. Not only did he serve as our principal at SCHS, but Mr. Roach and Peg have known each other since she was in high school.

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The concert began with an Appalachian folk song called “Shady Grove,” performed by the Men’s Concert Choir.

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Next, the Alumni Men joined to sing “My Wild Irish Rose.”

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The Women’s Concert Choir sang ” High Flight.”

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Peg Brasfield Welch directed the Women and Alumni Concert Choir in “Music Down in My Soul.”

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There were more songs to come. The audience truly enjoyed all the groups performing together. I had never heard “Nella Fantasia” before and thought it may the loveliest song that I have ever heard. Soaring vocals!

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There was a special presentation at the mid-point of the show for Peg Brasfield Welch, a teacher who has impacted so many people. To begin, Nathan Rhea stated that she changed his life 18 years ago. Peg told him that “singing is a gift from God.” Nathan recalled how Peg encouraged students to keep singing and to keep choral music ‘alive.’  The goal is not to compete with each other, but “to shine together.”

My IPhone did not capture good photos indoors so I contacted a professional photographer that I noticed attending the performance. The featured image for this article was by Kraehmer Photography.   Visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kraehmerphotography/ . The following photos were also used with permission by Kraehmer Photography. Many thanks!

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 (Photo courtesy of Kraehmer Photography.)

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It is rare when a former student gets the opportunity to honor a teacher in a special collaboration such as the Celebration Concert. Nathan Rhea said, “I am so honored to have had the chance to direct this concert and plan it with my former high school choir teacher. How often does that happen? A student co-direct with their former teacher…how cool is that?”  (Photo courtesy of Kraehmer Photography.)

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There was more music to come—and it was lovely. (Photo courtesy of Kraehmer Photography.)

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Anita Ownby Lipton sings a solo from “Order My Steps.” Anita always remembers Peg’s quote, “Music is all around us. All you have to do is listen!”

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Drew Hatcher’s voice almost brought Melinda and I to tears during “Nella Fantasia.”  What a beautiful sound!  (Photo courtesy of Kraehmer Photography.)

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Some of the best singers to come from the SCHS Concert Choir were present during this Celebration Concert. (Photo courtesy of Kraehmer Photography.)

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After the performance, Mr. Roach chatted with two of Peg’s sons.

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Alumni Choir members Marley Blevins and Julia Chastain Christ after the show.

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Nathan Rhea, choir director at SCHS had a final thought about the Celebration Concert.  He said, “Peg inspired me so much and that is what I want to do for my students: to inspire them to be better than they ever thought they could be. The SCHS Choral Department is what it is today because of Peg and it was nice to have a chance to give something back to her. Her former students showed up, sang and then everyone praised what she had achieved. This is everything to her.”

After the show, Peg reflected, “The students bonded as a group, made up of separate classes and all ages. Nathan Rhea outdid himself collecting the data and the history of this organization. This celebration was on my bucket list. It was everything, and more, than I hoped for.”

At the end, we left the Celebration Concert with this thought…

Singing is something we can do our whole life long.” Peg Brasfield Welch.