Orphans clean the Municipal Girls’ Orphanage.Claire K. Racine|Westmore News
Orphans clean the Municipal Girls’ Orphanage.

Claire K. Racine|Westmore News
Audiences can have twice the fun with "Annie, Jr." thanks to double casts of local children.

Everyone knows "Annie," and even if you don't like it, you still wind up smiling at the end, Director Julie Colangelo said. "There's something that makes you adore 'Annie.'"

After directing "Legally Blonde" for the Youth/Teen Theatre summer production, Colangelo, a teacher at the Port Chester Middle School, wanted to choose a well-known musical for the younger children. Cindy Moore provided musical direction for both shows.

Fu r t h e r m o r e , Colangelo picked "Annie, Jr." for the Children's Theatre summer production because of the plethora of characters, but with about 90 children auditioning, it was still necessary to create two entire casts. About 75% of the roles are double cast in the Port Chester Council for the Arts / Village of Port Chester show with only children playing the smallest roles performing in all the shows. There is only one Annie, however. Coaching two girls to play the lead role in five weeks is impractical, and luckily for Colangelo, during auditions, Christina Ledesma stood out as the person able to take the lead in all four performances.

"As soon as I heard the play was 'Annie,' I immediately auditioned," Ledesma said. "It's just a dream."

While the 12-year-old sang "Maybe" when she tried out for the part, it is not her favorite.

"'Tomorrow,' that song is one of my favorite in the entire play," Ledesma said. "I just feel that song so much."

Even though Annie is one of Ledesma's dream roles, she struggled a little initially with her relationship with Miss Hannigan, played by Grace Simmons of Port Chester and Sasha Spitz of Rye.

"Annie hates Miss Hannigan, and I don't really have any hatred against people," she said. Luckily for attendees, Ledesma was able to nail down Annie's anger, as well as her sadness and enthusiasm.

"There's a lot of expressions and emotions that I have to do," she said.

Much of the musical revolves around the relationship between Annie and billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks.

"I find it very interesting playing someone who has more value than me," said Robert Mickatavage, who plays the role along with fellow Port Chester resident Robert Perrone. "I love playing someone I'm not."

Eli Taylor-Lemire expressed a similar sentiment.

"It's cool getting to be kind of the bad guy, especially when it's a play about all these poor people," the 12-year-old said. Taylor-Lemire plays the "sneaky, slimy guy who's trying to ruin everything," and portraying a villain like Rooster Hannigan, who is also played by Ryan Heffernan of Port Chester, is a first for Taylor-Lemire.

"Even though he's so mean, you kind of feel for him at the same time because he's so poor," the Port Chester resident said.

Rooster's partner in crime is Lily St. Regis, played by Gisella McCallion of Port Chester and Julia Morlino of Rye Brook.

"I'm not used to being this stereotypical dumb blonde," McCallion said.

Her favorite part about being Lily St. Regis is getting to sing "Easy Street."

"It's a really fun song to sing," McCallion said. "It's really upbeat."

The whole show is full of peppy songs, the 13-year-old added. Learning all the lyrics and dancing, in addition to remembering lines, props and blocking can be nerve-racking, especially since they only started working on the musical in June.

"Most shows I do, you have a few months, and we do this in under five weeks," she said.

"It was definitely stressful the first couple weeks," added Ledesma, but it all came together in the end. "It's a lot of work, but it's a fun experience."

Since the Rye Brook resident loves acting, dancing and singing, performing in a musical is not really work for her.

"Maybe someday I'll be on Broadway," Ledesma said.

Until then, audiences can seethe 12-year-old perform this weekend in "Annie, Jr." on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27 at 3 p. m. and 8 p. m. at the Dunn Performing Arts Center at Rye Country Day School, Cedar Street, Rye. Each cast will perform at one matinee and one evening show. Tickets are $12 for the general public, $10 for seniors 65 and older and children 12 and younger. To reserve tickets, call (914) 939-3183 or email pccfasummershows2013@gmail.com. Tickets must be paid for with cash or check only.

Also this summer the PCCFA, in cooperation with the Village of Port Chester, will be producing "The Taming of the Shrew" Aug. 2-4 and 8-10.