You can't tell the students at North Carroll Middle School that they will not be opening on Broadway at 7:30 p.m. tonight. They have worked diligently to prepare for tonight's and tomorrow's performances of "Annie."
"I don't consider it a middle school production," said Ken Berry, an eighth-grade language arts teacher who is directing the play. "I consider it a production, and I expect them [the students] to do their very best, and they live up to our expectations."
The play is a well-known musical that focuses on Little Orphan Annie, who is taken in by the multimillionaire Daddy Warbucks.
The North Carroll Middle School production is a bit of a family affair. Mr. Berry's sister, Mary Lois Powelson, is the choreographer, and her daughter Delynn, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, is in the chorus.
More than 200 students tried out over three days of auditions. That number was reduced to 70, with a final total of 57 students in the cast and crew.
"I practiced," said Jesse Smith, 14, who performed the song "You're Not Fully Dressed Without A Smile" to win the role of Rooster.
"I think Rooster's cool," said Jesse. "He's just like me. He cons people. I'm good at that."
"Annie" is the first play to be done at the school in three years. All adult participants, from director to set designer, volunteer their time. And striving to put on as professional a show as possible can be exhausting.
It is for that reason that Mr. Berry decided to take a break. He feels that "Annie" is the perfect vehicle to bring him and the others out of semiretirement.
"They get to play kids rather than adults," said Mr. Berry. "Many get to play kids their own age."
The students are looking forward to displaying their talents for the audience -- even if it does mean hours of practice and hard work.
"It's hard memorizing your lines," said Brent Putnam, 13.
TC Brent has the distinction of playing President Franklin D. Roosevelt. "He's fun to play because he has a really nice personality," Brent said.
L Tim Schestag, also 13, enjoys his role of Drake in the play.
"Drake runs the household," Tim said. "I love it. It's not like sports. It's like yourself. You're doing it by yourself."
The musical requires the students to sing and dance, and not all of them had the training. Mrs. Powelson taught some of the students how to dance.
Jennie Knight, the 13-year-old who plays Annie, was one of the recipients of Mrs. Powelson's dance lessons.
Jennie likes everything about her role except the one thing that identifies her as Annie.
"She hates the wig," said Ciaire Scroggins, 13, who plays a maid living in the fictitious Hooverville.
"It's ugly," said Jennie.
The play has many comedic moments that the audience is sure to enjoy.
Courtney Mattingly, 14, plays Mrs. Hannigan.
"She's drunk all the time," Courtney said. "I flirt with all the guys. I wanted this part ever since I watched the movie.
"I think she's a really interesting character, and she gets to do funny things that the other characters don't do."
The cast promises a good time for all.
"It's gonna be awesome," said Jennie. "It's not gonna bore you cause the people that are in it are really happening."
Tickets for the show are $3 for adults and $2 for children.