St. Cecilia returns to stage

After a three-year wait, musical theater returns to the Hastings Catholic Schools stage tonight with a production of the classic show, “Annie.”

“It’s my senior year, so I have been waiting for a musical for three years now,” said Tess Wahlmeier, who plays Grace Farrell. “I was so excited that we were going to have one.”

Performances will be 7 p.m. today and Saturday in the St. Cecilia east gymnasium.

At a dress rehearsal Thursday night, Wahlmeier was among several cast members who said the best part of the experience has been getting to know other students involved.

“Especially the underclassmen and middle-schoolers,” she said. “I knew some of them, but I didn’t know many of them very well, so getting to build a more solid community with them has been really awesome.”

While the school has staged some small revues, co-directors Dana Fanning and Ben Veilleux said “Annie” is the first large musical since spring 2011. The show involves about 45 students in grades 6-12.

Fanning said in the future, the school is planning to stage a musical every other year, and with she and Veilleux working as a team, they’ll be better able to stage large shows.

Fanning teaches general music and Veilleux teaches vocal and instrumental music at St. Cecilia.

Veilleux said in addition to all the students involved, the production had help from parents and other faculty.

“Annie” tells the familiar story of an optimistic, curly-haired orphan during the Great Depression who finds a family with billionaire Daddy Warbucks. Classic songs from the show include “Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow,” and “Easy Street.”

Veilleux said they were looking for a musical with a lot of female roles.

“We also hadn’t done a show in a while, and we wanted to attract people right away with a familiar name,” he said.

Fanning said she was excited to see the show come together, but the experience also is bittersweet.

“We’re tired, and I know we probably need a rest, but I’m going to really miss doing this because it’s so much fun being with the kids,” she said. “I feel like they’ve exceeded our expectations.”

“We’ve been at it for almost three months. Then you have just a weekend, and it’s done and over,” Veilleux said.

Both co-directors said the best part of the directing experience has been seeing the students grow on stage and off.

“They really took it over and made it their own,” Fanning said. “The kids showed a lot of initiative.”

“It’s called drama for a reason,” Veilleux said, laughing. “But for as many younger kiddos as we have, we’ve had very little of that. It’s been very passion-filled, and the kids have really responded and bonded in a good way.”

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