Arts and Entertainment

Stage Door Productions ‘Annie’ great addition to Plateau

By Trudy D’Armond

For The Courier-Herald

Until this month, Stage Door Productions was unable to officially disclose the name of its spring play due to a contractual agreement with the publisher. SDP and cast can now freely say “Annie” with great excitement.

There is a reason “Annie” has not been performed in Washington state for a long time. Five years ago the touring Broadway show celebrating the 30th Anniversary of “Annie” started its tour in Seattle. Their goal was to finish their tour where they started. As a result a moratorium was put upon the rights to the play so the 30th Anniversary Broadway Tour was not in competition with other performing groups wishing to perform the profoundly popular “Annie.”

Now that the 30th Anniversary Broadway Tour just completed in Seattle, the moratorium has been lifted and SDP is ready to bring “Annie” to the Plateau. Since I have been attending rehearsals, I can honestly say how thrilled we are at being able (at a huge cost) to secure the rights for the people of the Plateau to enjoy.

After auditioning dozens of incredible children and adults and then making the crucial call-back choices, the production team of SDP has what I would call a dream cast. Emily Randolph from Eatonville will be playing the precocious 11-year-old Annie who is going to steal your heart; Stu Johnson will play the part of the self-made billionaire, Oliver Warbucks; Stacia Bruner will play Grace Farrell, devoted assistant to Warbucks; and Steffanie Foster will play the part of Miss Hannigan, the depressed and greedy manager of the orphanage.

Director Frank Thompson has a dream-team production staff. Syble Bracken of The Ballet Workshop will choreograph dance scenes and Stephanie Johnson from Tacoma is vocal director supreme. Stephanie Magnusson will be conducting an amazing orchestra and the team of Bonnie Azzelino and James Moniz will serve as assistant directors.

There is an exciting rumor that the Tony- and Emmy-award winning lyricist for “Annie” may stop by and pay Stage Door Productions a personal visit during one of the final rehearsals before the show. He’s so much more than a famous lyricist, however. He directs, composes, writes and produces as well. Do you think you know who SDP’s mystery guest is going to be?

The “orphans” in this production of Annie will absolutely melt your heart and just wait till you hear them sing! The stage at White River High School’s theater is going to come alive with music and dance opening night April 1 and end April 17.

I forgot to mention a 13-year-old with the most soulful brown eyes and sense of empathy I have ever seen. She comes to rehearsal on time, she waits patiently for her cues and she knows her lines already. Instead of being jealous of her, the cast members adore Ellie McKenna-Gammon. This year she will turn 14. “Annie” is not Ellie’s first play. She has made guest appearances in a couple SDP plays. Ellie will be playing the part of “Sandy,” Annie’s dog.

Ellie belongs to Lori McKenna and Craig Gammon. Lori was chosen by Ellie when Lori went to find a Blue Heeler puppy almost 14 years ago.

I asked Lori if she could tell me a bit more about this precious animal who believes she is a human. After almost 14 years of adventures with Ellie, Lori stated she’d do her best to condense a doggy lifetime into a few paragraphs.

This is what Lori McKenna has to say about her beloved pup.

“At six months old, Ellie decided to start rotating the horses around the property. You gotta love a herding dog! She loved competing in agility, and still plays at it whenever the opportunity presents itself.

“Ellie has a Canine Musical Freestyle title (dog dancing), and has helped to choreograph dance routines. She has been on television, and has entertained on stage a number of times. Dog dancing demonstrations usually, but in live theater with SDP more recently.”

Lori continued, “Ellie is an exceptionally unique dog. She takes her role as ‘den mother’ in the family very seriously, making sure no one gets overly upset or excited.  As a caring companion to family and friends, both four-legged and two-legged, she guides deaf/almost blind Josie, our Jack Russell terrier, through physical difficulties. She sympathetically paced back and forth with Frank during callbacks, and currently struggles to get to Emily Randolph as she cries while rehearsing her ‘Annie’ character.

“Ellie and I are a team, in so many ways.  I can take her anywhere, without even a leash on her, and can trust her to always be polite and friendly. Her manners are actually better than many people I know.  She is quietly compassionate, fiercely loyal, and has her own special sense of fun. I don’t take a relationship like this for granted, and I’m profoundly grateful for every day I have with her.” 

To watch Lori interact with Ellie is like watching two soul mates communicate with one another. It is much like tender, loving telepathy. It is a joy to watch this theater production exercise its wings. In a few weeks they’ll be flying!

For more information about “Annie,” call 360-825-2212 or log on to to get play dates and ticket information.

Between wind and rainstorms a few weeks ago I encountered a ray of sunshine as I stood on my front porch. As I peered out into my yard I was surprised to see tiny buds covering my flowering plum tree. I glanced at my window flowerboxes and saw where my daffodils had grown 5 inches when I wasn’t looking. After hunkering down to bear the dark hours of winter the last couple of months I am imagining spring colors in my flowerbeds and the perfume of Hyacinths filling the air. Just before spring officially begins is my favorite time of year. It whispers hope, rebirth and awakening.

I walked over to Enumclaw City Hall several days ago and viewed the photo gallery of Vicki Dvorak, photographer/color consultant from Maple Valley. Vicki calls herself a vintage photographer. She uses pastel, dreamy colors in her photos to create a nostalgic expression. I absolutely loved her photograph called Rustic Charm. It reminded me of my grandparent’s cottage-like home that sat directly across the road from Mineral Lake, near Mount Rainier. I was just a little girl, but I’ll never forget that wonderful, little house with its crisp white paint, window flowerboxes, green shutters and white picket fence. The house is still standing, but remodeling and decades of changes have completely changed the cottage-like character of this dwelling.

They were simpler and happier days back then and that is indeed what Vicki Dvorak creates so beautifully with her style of photography. On her Web site,, Vicki states, “I am an artist and have worked with color all of my life. Art, design, and color are my passions. I am a Children’s Art Instructor for the local parks department, and volunteer for Art With Heart in Seattle ( Photography is my passion and I’m excited to share my photos with you.”

I was excited to see Vicki’s work and truly appreciate Gary LaTurner’s continued efforts to keep visual art well and alive in Enumclaw by arranging gallery shows for local artists to display their work. LaTurner and the city of Enumclaw give us all an opportunity to visit the Enumclaw City Council chambers to view wonderful artwork throughout the year.

Keep your ears and eyes open for more gallery presentations of local artists at Enumclaw City Hall and prepare yourself for one of the most entertaining musical theater presentations The Plateau has seen in many years when “Annie” comes to visit the White River High School theater for three weeks.

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