Hard-knocks shine on stage

Hard-knocks shine on stage

Nearly 30 young actresses from Hong Kong passed auditions to take roles in a production of the Broadway musical Annie

November 04, 2012
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Annie escapes from the orphanage and meets people like rich businessman Daddy Warbucks
Annie escapes from the orphanage and meets people like rich businessman Daddy Warbucks
Good things often come in small packages. And for teen actress Katie Howard, it's her small stature that allowed her to land the dream role of Annie.

The character Annie is 11 years old, but Katie is a little older.

"I was 15, so I didn't think I'd get the role, but I'm quite small for my age," she told Young Post in a phone conversation from the UK. She went through a few rounds of auditions, sang and acted out some scenes. Not long afterwards, she received a phone call with the good news. The theatre-trained actress was "so happy and excited," and knew a production of this size would certainly be a leap in the right direction.

Annie, the musical, is based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray. The Broadway musical, which features songs such as Tomorrow and A Hard-Knock's Life, originally opened in 1977 and has since spawned countless productions globally.

It tells the story of the feisty redhead, and other orphans, who live in New York during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Annie's prime motive in life is to find and reunite with her parents, all the while trying to escape from the wicked orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan.

The title role will be played in rotation by three UK actresses: Charlie Hall, 11, and Ella Crossland, nine, join Katie as the other Annies. When they are not playing Annie, they will either play the role of the orphan Tessie or have a night off.

The popular musical allocated spots for young, locally based aspiring actresses for the Hong Kong performance. Last month, Annie director and choreographer Roger Hannah flew to the city for three days of auditions, hoping to find, among the roughly 250 that showed up, girls to fill the roles of Annie's fellow orphans from the New York City Municipal Orphanage.

Hannah hand-picked 28 girls, aged seven to 13, from a range of students from local and international schools. For the Hong Kong performances, the girls will perform the nine characters in rotation alongside the original UK cast.

"We had a massive audition in Hong Kong," Hannah told Young Post over the phone from the UK. "I was in Hong Kong many, many years ago with TVB, so I was always aware of the good acting of the local artists but, of course, that was in Cantonese and on Chinese subjects."

But when Hannah arrived for the auditions, he was impressed by the level of acting displayed by the young talents, regardless of their native language. Overall the orphans have a solid part in the Annie experience.

"The orphans have lots of lines to say with Annie and, of course, with Miss Hannigan," explains Hannah, whose credentials, among other things, include directing and staging the Miss Hong Kong pageant. "They have to sing as well. We've got them singing in two songs. So they're pretty full-on in the show."

The young Hong Kong actors need only look to Hollywood for affirmation that one day they, too, may make it in the ultra-competitive world of acting. Catherine Zeta Jones made her professional debut in Annie, and with a little luck and plenty of hard work, some day, one of these aspiring youngsters may become a celebrity.

Annie plays at the Lyric Theatre, HKAPA, from May 31 to June 24. Tickets are available from www.hkticketing.com

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