• ‘Andy’ plays May 24, 25, 26, and 27 at 7pm At Pier One Theatre
See a video of “Andy” here:
By Heather Ericson
The American childhood song, “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, that tomorrow, there’ll be sun” can be heard from Pier One Theatre in the continuation of the play “Andy.” For those who ventured to the Homer Spit for the sun and theater, this weekend was the premiere of “Andy.”
If the plot of a curly-haired orphan searching for his family sounds familiar, that’s because it’s another version of “Annie.” Harold Gray wrote the cartoon strip “Little Orphan Annie,” which was first printed in 1924. The Pier One Theatre and Homer Council on the Arts production went with the original mindset of the screenwriter to use a boy orphan as the star, which was a perfect fit for the lead role, Falcom Greear.
The story of “Andy” is not a new tale to Greear. Adopted at the age of one from Micronesia, the now-13-year-old has lived his entire life in Homer. His mother, Alana, said Greear has been singing since early childhood and “has a real affinity for singing and performing.”
Brenda Dolma, director of “Andy,” said Falcom’s talents beg to be showcased. Although this is Greear’s first bigger show, he wowed the Homer community with his voice in a solo concert in the fall of 2010, as well as in Jubilee. When asked after the show what his favorite part of this production was, he said, “I’m so excited to be working with kids my own age, as well as new adults.”
The performance is exciting for the Homer community, not only for entertainment purposes, but also for promoting the youth theatrical training. The Musical Theater Program, led by director Lance Petersen, is a place where elementary and middle school students can start from scratch and learn musical and theatrical skills. By learning the nuance of theater in this after-school program, it is easier for them to transition into high school performances, said Dolma. Besides the Musical Theater Program, Homer is limited to high school musicals, plays and theater productions.
The program has the first Homer youth workshop. Parents pay $150 to enroll their child, with a guarantee that every child gets a role onstage. The fee and ticket sales are a way for the production to sustain itself.
The musical theater program also receives funding and support from Wells Fargo Bank and the Alaska Association of School Boards Initiative for Community Engagement. Homer resident Donna Rae Faulkner, who previously managed the Initiative for Community Engagement, helped with the Musical Theater Program. The Homer Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts also supported the program with an Emerging Performers Grant.
Until last week, students were practicing once-a-week. HCOA started a performing arts program, called the Emerging Performers Program, which was integrated into the Musical Theater Program to give youth more musical opportunities.
“This was for targeting the youth of Homer who hadn’t had the chance to participate in anything like this before,” Dolma said.
For youth ages 8-13 years old, the Musical Theater Program introduced a new component: adult mentors.
“Adult mentors are necessary for first-time performers, to encourage positive feedback, and keep the young stars’ self-esteem intact,” said Dolma. “The cutthroat world of Hollywood is harsher than necessary on child actors. I believe positive comments are the way to go.”
With the original script of “Annie,” it was easy to integrate adults into “Andy,” with the roles such as the affluent Daddy Warbucks and the callous orphanage director Miss Hannigan. Christa Collier plays Miss Hannigan, a role she plays with undisguised glee, showing true passion for the arts. Michael McKinney plays Daddy Warbucks with charm.
There are both young and adult cast members, working side-by-side.
“Instead of the usual one adult bossing everyone around, there is an adult you can go to behind the scenes for help,” said Dolma.
She added that this was a great way to teach kids about listening and learning to develop a character.
The strengths of the characters can be seen onstage.
In rehearsals on Thursday, Jackson Sarber played the lovable dog Sandy, sniffing and barking his way across stage. The chef, played by Donna Reider, was the grandma everyone loves. She calls it “ironic,” because she is a “Homer artist, mom of four, grandmother of 10, and great-grandma of eight.” Other orphan parts were played by the talented youth of Homer, including some who said they lived for theater.
The idea behind “Andy” was to teach youth new skills and to promote Alaska’s history. Benny Benson, an orphan, designed the Alaska State flag. According to UNICEF, there are 145,000,000 orphans worldwide. Brenda Dolma took this huge topic, and directed “Andy” to portray the classic American tale.
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