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Charlotte Ballard, Jaida Brice, Sara Grosz (rear), Jillian Nordberg, Felicity Soto and Sara Murray rehearse “It’s A Hard-Knock Life” for the upcoming production of “Annie.”

Musical theater is back in Cody.

The Cody Community Theatre organization will be performing the musical “Annie” November 12-14 at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium.

“We want to do live theatre, we want to have an audience,” said the show’s director, Donna-Lynn Murray.

She said she chose to do the musical about an upbeat orphan finding a family, because it’s an upbeat show – which she says everyone could use right now.

“It’s so feel-good, just a happy show,” Murray said. “And that’s what our community needs, I think.”

In the title role is Cody Middle School student Jillian Nordberg, who Murray said has been a dream to work with.

“I’ve been eyeballing her for a few years now as she was growing up,” Murray said. “She has taken on the weight of this entire production, at 13 years old, and is killing it! She’s so energetic, she’s prepared, she’s professional in everything she does – at 13.”

Jillian’s character, the orphan Annie, brings happiness and love to a billionaire curmudgeon, Oliver Warbucks, played by Dan Smith.

“He’s working hard on being a grumpy old man, because he’s not,” said Murray, who last worked with Smith when they were lead characters in “Mamma Mia”.

Playing the role of Warbucks’ long-suffering assistant is Kennedy Corr, whom audiences have seen in many productions – musical and otherwise – over the last ten years, ever since she was a student at Cody High School.

“Kennedy is knocking it out of the park,” praised Murray. “She usually gets dramatic parts, so for her to play an uptight secretary is new for her.”

This production also brings some new faces to Cody theater-goers.

“Jessika Albrecht isn’t new to Cody, having grown up here, but she is new to us,” Murray said. “She’s doing a great job as Miss Hannigan (the cranky head of the orphanage and Annie’s nemesis) – she’s mean but lovable.”

A supporting cast that’s a mix of new faces and old has allowed Murray to showcase community theatre regulars in different roles. Murray’s son, Jake (“Jakey!” laughs Murray) is indispensable both onstage and behind the scenes.

“He is Rooster (Miss Hannigan’s crooked brother), and he is currently building all our sets as we speak.”

Aili Roberson is the other character actor who wears many hats in this production. She plays Lily St. Regis, as well as one of the Boylan Sisters. She also plays the assistant dog catcher. Roberson is also a regular with CCT, having appeared in numerous productions over the past five years.

Other supporting cast members include Felicity Soto, Haileigh Moore, Sarah Grosz, Charlotte Ballard, Jaida Brice, Sara Murray, Sean Murray, Craig Pierce, Derrick Walton, Kieran Beebe, Melinda Soto, Jeff Sandvik, Tessa Hernandez, Emily Burrell, Deni Hirsh, Bethea Kalenak, Emily Jones, Kieran Beebe, Justin Weigand, Harmony Boyd, Kristen LaBazzo, Trisha Lightman, Sylie Black, Kori Black, Emmalee Beardall, Eagle Bateman, and Corrine Burrell. Drew Murray and Taylor Mariani also have minor on-stage roles.

Any musical is only as good as its musicians, and Donna-Lynn expressed her gratitude toward Noma Walton, the show’s rehearsal accompanist.

“We couldn’t do this without her!” exclaimed Murray. “She has been indispensable to the Cody Community Theatre organization for many, many years.”

The music director for the production is another Murray – Drew is Jake’s wife, and has been a fixture on Cody stages since her years in high school. Drew is also the new drama coach at CHS, and just completed the play “Radium Girls.”

Michael Jaycox has taken on the job of pit orchestra conductor. He is a Powell music teacher and has been involved with CCT since the dinner theatre production of “I’m Getting Murdered in the Morning.” Murray points out that Jaycox has not taken a behind-the-scenes position prior to this production.

“We are thrilled to have him conducting for this show,” she said.

Another Cody theatre regular who is trying on a new role this time around is Taylor (Reeder) Mariani, who is the assistant director.

“This is the first time she has done any behind-the-scenes work,” Murray pointed out. “She’s always been on the stage – but is thoroughly enjoying it and learning a lot.”

Murray herself has appeared both onstage and behind the scenes since her family moved to Cody in 2005. Her directing credits include “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2018, “Beauty and the Beast” in 2017 and Shrek in 2016; she was the music director for “Music Man”; and appeared onstage most recently as Donna in “Mamma Mia.”

But this year’s production has proven to be more challenging than most due to the pandemic.

“The CCT board decided that a mask mandate was necessary for cast members during the rehearsal process to keep us healthy,” she explained. “We have had our issues with people coming down with COVID and other illnesses, where cast members have had to miss numerous rehearsals. This puts a strain on the other cast members.”

Murray said she is grateful that the people who have gotten sick have communicated with her, so they have been able to quarantine the people who needed to be.

“That’s why we started the mask mandate, so we didn’t have to quarantine the entire cast should one person test positive. We are doing everything we possibly can to stay healthy and bring a show back to the community.”

Tickets for “Annie” can be purchased at showtix4u.com; and at The Thistle and the Nordberg Lindauer Gallery in Cody. Adult tickets are $25, tickets for children (under 12) are $15, and all proceeds go to the Cody Community Theatre nonprofit organization to fund future shows.

Showtimes will be Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 13 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.. Masks are requested for the health of the actors, but not required.

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