GLADWIN – With youthful energy, humor, and raw emotion, Gladwin Area Friends of the Theater (GAFT) delivered another entertaining summer musical, when they produced Annie, July 10-13. The beloved musical is about a poor young orphan, the search for her parents, and the family she finds in billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

GAFT’s rendition of this Broadway classic delighted the audience as they performed “Hard Knock Life”, “Tomorrow”, and “Put on a Happy Face”, among many others. 

This production marks the 40th anniversary of  GAFT, and the choice to perform Annie was an appropriate way to celebrate the anniversary of the community theater as GAFT previously performed the musical 17 years ago. 

Between the cast, the efficient and professional stage crew, the countless volunteers that staffed the performance nights, and the beautiful painting of the background scenery, the large community of GAFT was on full display as all hands were on deck to pull off another wonderful summer musical. 

The high energy musical was driven by Olivia Klein in the lead role. Klein’s performance of Annie allowed the young actress to show off her emotional range and ability to make the audience feel truly engaged with her character. Her scenes with Steve Levine, who played Oliver Warbucks, were some of the best for each actor. The two played off each other well and displayed an excellent father/daughter connection. 

Amelia Corbett was the pint-sized scene stealer of the show. Corbett portrayed the youngest orphan, Molly, whose comedic antics were the highlight of many of the scenes she was in. 

GAFT veteran Emily Olson portrayed Miss Hannigan, the woman in charge of the orphanage. Her performance of the drunken, scheming, comedic and cruel character was so over the top that it veered towards being too much. Olson’s portrayal was clearly influenced by Carol Burnett, who played the role in the 1982 film, though the actress was still able to make the role her own.

Ally Melcher stood out by blending in, as the assistant to Oliver Warbucks Grace Farrell. Melcher played the role as the straight man in the often comedic show. Her cool and calm professionalism cast her as being years older than what the teenager actually is. 

The entire ensemble worked together seamlessly to bring the audience an enjoyable night out at the theater. Each song was met with thunderous applause, and the cast and crew truly earned their standing ovation at the end. 

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