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At Columbia Elementary School, the cast for "Annie Jr." includes Abby Chatam (Pepper) front from left, Adeline Causey (Tessie), Grace Nuzman (Molly), Claire Colo (Duffy) and Bella Rose Davis (July). McKayla Merritt (Kate), back from left, Abby Taylor (Lily), Susie Sorensen (Annie), Ben Bagwell (Warbucks), Penelope May (Grace Farrell), Tabytha Hartland (Miss Hannigan) and Connor Murphree (Rooster). CONTRIBUTED

‘The sun will come out’ for Columbia’s ‘Annie Jr.’

MADISON — An unrelenting attitude of optimism will prevail during Columbia Elementary School Drama Club’s production of “Annie Jr.,” staged on Feb. 8-9 in the James Clemens High School Auditorium.

Annie charms hearts, despite her next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City, according to publishing company Music Theatre International. Annie is determined to find her parents who abandoned her at cruel Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Annie eventually foils Miss Hannigan’s evil machinations, finding a new family with billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

Columbia is presenting “Annie Jr.” through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

The production features 84 Columbia students in grades K-5. Everyone in the 43-member cast earned a role in auditions, open to all second- through fifth-graders in August 2018. Open to any student, the chorus of 41 students appears in two scenes.

“We’re thankful for support that our high school drama departments lend each year and our administration’s steadfast support,” Co-Director Stephanie Thompson said.

“As soon as this show ends, parents will decide on next year’s directors and start work on next year’s production,” Co-Director Hannah Taylor. “The children spend seven months preparing for the show, but our parent volunteers commit a year.”

With support from Principal Jamie Hill, parent volunteers manage Columbia Drama Club. Teacher Heather Bui is club sponsor. Karyn Murphree is producer.

“Many other parents make costumes, paint props and work behind scenes during tech week,” Murphree said. “Volunteers with children involved in current and past plays have one thing in common — love of theater and for these amazing children.”

This year, Columbia Drama Club faced the move of sixth-graders to middle schools. “This year’s cast consists of extremely talented children as always; however, in past years we had an additional grade from which to choose. We have an overall younger cast, a new challenge,” Murphree said.

To promote “Annie Jr.,” cast members performed for an Applebee’s pancake breakfast and for Madison Board of Education. “Our school board is always supportive of Columbia drama,” Murphree said. “They encourage our children. We’re so thankful for their service to our community.”

“Annie Jr.” is Columbia’s ninth production. At James Clemens, they have presented “Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” “Mulan Jr.,” “Wizard of Oz, Young Performers Edition,” “Peter Pan Jr.” and “Willy Wonka Jr.” “Before these shows, smaller performances were held in Columbia’s lunchroom. Event popularity caused need for a larger venue,” Murphree said.

Show times for “Annie Jr.” are Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 9 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. To buy tickets online, visit showtix4u.com and search for “CES Drama.” Tickets also will be sold at the event.

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