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Excitement builds as ‘Annie’ opens tomorrow night

“Curtain up! Light the lights! You got nothing to hit but the heights!”

Though these are the lyrics from the musical “Gypsy,” they are apropos of what’s going on in the high school auditorium these past few days. The cast is putting on the finishing touches to make sure every step and lyric is in place. The orchestra is tuning up and rehearsing those last few bars. Music Boosters is putting on another show folks, and it promises to bring the house down.

“Annie “ opens tomorrow night and the cast couldn’t be more delighted to finally get to practice their “chops” on a real audience. Excitement literally ripples through the ranks as the cast of 16 girls and one boy, 16 teens, assorted adults and one dog prepare themselves for opening night. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. so make sure to get there and take your seat for the opening curtain promptly at 7.

Our local cast is made up of some surprising talent, many of whom are veteran actors. You may be interested in learning a bit more about the background of some of the lead characters in Music Boosters’ production of “Annie.”

Dave Armbrecht, a Virginia native who moved to Pagosa five years ago with his family, portrays Daddy Warbucks. Dave has been a Music Boosters regular since we first became aware of his talent and experience.

Dave says he was first bitten by the theater bug in elementary school where he starred in various roles as a flower, a bear or, as his memory of that time fades, perhaps even a “hunk of cheese.” In junior high and high school he went on to usurp the roles of a fellow student who was quite the stage talent, but a much lesser light in the classroom. Fortunately for Dave he was able to assume title roles such as that of Perrot in some of the Commedia dell’Arte productions his school staged. He held roles in “The Maker of Dreams,” played the part of Ulysses in an original play written by those at his school, and also played Tom Sawyer in a production of the same name.

Later, at Duke University, he joined its theater group, the comically named “Hoof and Horn.” Though he eventually majored in accounting, Dave also pursued an ambitious college career in theater in such productions as “Pajama Game,” “Sweet Charity” and “Guys and Dolls,” where he principally appeared in the corps de ballet. He was cast as the supporting lead in “Kiss Me Kate” where he played the role of the drunk and later got a main role in the Tennessee Williams’ classic “The Glass Menagerie.”

He met his wife, Lue, as she was completing her first year of teaching in Richmond. After they married they learned that the Haymarket Dinner Theater there was holding auditions for “How to Succeed in Business” and decided to try out. Dave tells how Lue was so overcome by nerves on the way to the auditions that he had to pull the car over to the side of the road about a mile from the theater so she could calm down enough to go in and try out. They did manage to get through the audition process and were both hired, she for the chorus and he in a dual role as a CEO (with hair) and as a mailroom supervisor (without hair.) They went on to do several British comedies at the Haymarket Dinner Theater including, “No Sex Please, We’re British” and “Move Over, Mrs. Markham.” In the Haymarket production of “Guys and Dolls” Dave played the role of the clown and gambler, Bennie Southstreet. (For those of you unfamiliar with the name, he’s the character who sings “Can Do.”)

Much to the benefit of Pagosa Springs Dave and Lue moved here five years ago after they’d been introduced to the beauty of the area by their longtime friend, Dale Morris (director of “Annie.”) They had wanted to move west since first visiting Dale in Santa Fe. Finally, after Dave retired from a career spanning 30 years as an accountant, he and Lue realized their dream of coming to the West.

Dale knew of Dave’s talent and theater experience and upon learning of this, we at Music Boosters immediately drafted him to play the part of Scrooge in our 2005 production of “A Christmas Carol.” He has graciously taken on various roles since then appearing as the Pharaoh/Elvis in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” the father during the second run of “Lily, the Felon’s Daughter,” and Bill, the villainous boyfriend, in “Oliver.”

Dave is thrilled to be included in the cast of “Annie” and is looking forward to putting on the show. He says he has so appreciated working with the cast of kids as well as adults and the directors who have been so thorough and patient with everyone. And we are looking forward as well to see his marvelous talent come to life in the persona of Daddy Warbucks.

Lue Armbrecht is now a veteran actor in her own right, and she portrays Miss Hannigan in “Annie.”. Lue is a Pennsylvania native, attended grade school through college there, and eventually moved to Virginia. She was in her first year of teaching when she met Dave. They married and pursued their love of the theater in acting roles at the Haymarket Theater in Richmond.

Lue’s interest in theater blossomed in junior high where she was first cast in the chorus of “Oliver.” Later in high school she was cast in “L’il Abner,” “Carousel” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” In college she continued to pursue her love of theater and got character parts in “Anything Goes,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Lue went into teaching after graduation and taught high school special education and was also drafted as the drama coach. Dave informed me that she’d been a bit too modest in recapping her career for me. It seems that when she was the drama coach at her rural Virginia high school she took her drama club to state seven out of the eight years she was there. The club was known for the original plays it presented of which, as Dave tells me, Lue was the principal author. Her club was also voted drama club of the year twice during her tenure there.

After meeting and marrying Dave, she and he began their theater years together at the Haymarket Dinner Theater where they acted, sang and danced as well as waited tables. They were also working their day jobs while engaged in all of this. Lue adds that making this extra money was how they managed to buy their first home. In all, Lue and Dave spent 30 years in Virginia when they made their move to the mountains of Colorado.

Lue was soon hired as a third-grade teacher at Pagosa Springs Elementary School where she still teaches. In December of 2005, while Dave took the role of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” she was cast as Mrs. Dilber. She later played the part of Miss Ophelia, the comic old maid in Music Boosters’ production of “Lily, the Felon’s Daughter.” She has helped in various capacities backstage for both the high school and Music Boosters as well as her onstage roles. Music Boosters is honored to have such a talented veteran of the theater take on the part of Miss Hannigan for our current production.

Annie is very deftly portrayed by 13-year-old Johanna Laverty. Johanna is no stranger to the stage as she has held several roles in Music Boosters productions since her introduction as a chorus member in “Oklahoma.” At eight years of age she was cast as Tiny Tim in our production of “A Christmas Carol.” She appeared in the chorus of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” and in the part of the Artful Dodger in the “Oliver” segment of “The Beat Goes On.” In the high school production of “The Wiz,” she played a munchkin.

Johanna homeschools and tells me history is her favorite subject; she enjoys participating in sports and has played on volleyball, basketball and soccer teams for the past few years. Acting and singing are her favorite hobbies, but she aspires to be a professional photographer and travel the world. Her favorite roles to date are Tiny Tim and her current one as Annie.

Pagosa will indeed be proud to claim this Annie as one of its own as Johanna shares her particular talent and charm with a very fortunate audience.

To observe all of this talent as well as that of many others, come to the show. “Annie,” opening at the high school auditorium tomorrow, Friday, June 25, at 7 p.m. It will run Saturday, June 26, at the same time and then on Sun., June 27, at 2 p.m.. Be sure to get your tickets ASAP. They can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce, at brownpapertickets.com or at the door. See you at the show!