In Braddon Mehrton’s nine years as the director of Weehawken High School’s annual musical, he said he’s never seen a more talented group of orphans.
That’s not to say he hasn’t worked with a more talented cast, but as far as the rag-tag bunch of orphans lead by a redhead with an attitude, a reluctant billionaire, and a dog named Sandy, this year’s high school cast of “Annie” is the best he’s seen.
“This is a fantastic group of kids to do this particular show with, because on average they’re a bit younger than the cast we usually put together,” said Mehrton, who comes to Weehawken to direct each year from Inside Broadway, a non-profit educational theater group in New York City.
Mehrton explained that several of his drama students graduated last year, and so to pick a show that would fit his new cast, he chose “Annie,” in which most of the characters are, in fact, children.
“It’s honestly the best five bucks you’ll ever spend.” – Assistant Principal Steven Spinosa
Diuky said getting to play Annie was a dream come true for her, as it’s been one of her favorite musicals since childhood.
Her favorite song?
“Probably ‘Maybe,’ ” she said. “I have to practice it a lot because it’s in a really high key, but I think it’s turning out well.”
For Natalie, the hardest part of playing the antagonist was, well, being evil enough.
“I tried really hard to create the perfect villain,” she said.
Leo said that playing Daddy Warbucks was a great experience, and commented that he’s probably the first person to play the famous billionaire who’s not bald. Asked why township residents should attend the show next weekend, he said, “It’s only five bucks!”
Not a lot of money to a man like him.
Rooster and Grace
Rounding out the lead cast is junior Christopher Munguia, who plays Ms. Hannigan’s evil cousin and partner-in-crime Rooster, and sophomore Chase Jennings, who plays Warbucks’ love interest, Grace Farrell.
Christopher said that the biggest challenge for him this year was perfecting Rooster’s accent.
“It’s sort of a Depression-era ghetto accent,” he said with a laugh. “It took some work, but I think I’ve got it.”
Chase spoke about the closeness of the cast.
“Most of us have been together in the cast for a few years now, so we’ve gotten to be a bit of a family,” she said. “Doing this show was really fun, as well, because it invokes a lot of different emotions. It’s really such a great show.”
Steven Spinosa, who is the producer of the show and also the high school’s assistant principal, said that each year the school’s musicals get better and better, and “Annie” is no exception.
“It’s one of the biggest cast and crews we’ve ever worked with, and also one of the best,” he said. “It’s honestly the best five bucks you’ll ever spend.”
On behalf of the entire production, Spinosa thanked Mayor Richard Turner and the Township Council, Superintendent of Schools Kevin McClellan, Board of Education President Richard Barsa, and High School Principal Peter Olivieri for their continued support of the school’s theater department. He also thanked the woodshop teacher Peter Simons, the art teacher Elizabeth McParland for their help with the set and costume design, and music teacher Michael Lichtenfeld for assisting with the orchestra.