Arts and Entertainment

'Annie' opens at Bainbridge Performing Arts for two-week run

Annie(played by Anna Banyas) snuggles with Sandy (played by Doogan Rector).  - Brad Camp/ For the Review
Annie(played by Anna Banyas) snuggles with Sandy (played by Doogan Rector).
— image credit: Brad Camp/ For the Review

A year ago, Anna Banyas was playing a dog.

“Arff. Arff,” she mimics, reprising her role as Nana in last year’s “Peter Pan.”

This year, she’s top dog, having landed the starring role in BPA’s version of the Broadway musical “Annie.”

“There was a lot of competition, some of it from across the water,” said BPA Creative Director Steven Fogell, who also directs the play.

“Anna has worked her way up. She been in theater school four or five years. She’s been working with [Bainbridge voice coach] Mark Powers. She got ready,” he said.

She has a few more lines to remember this go around as “Annie” opens tonight for its two-week, 12-show run at BPA.

This time the part of the dog is played by – well, a dog. Doogan Rector, a three-year-old soft coated Wheaten Terrier, debuts in his first dramatic role.

“Working with a real dog is a little harder,” Banyas said. “He has a mind of his own.”

And how.

Jordan Taylor, owner of Reel Dogs, trains dogs for film, television and now, the stage. She’s been working with Rector for several months, encouraging him to form a strong bond with Banyas.

“It’s been so much fun,” Rector’s owner, Teresa Rector said in the lobby of BPA at Monday’s first dress rehearsal. “I only wanted to do it if he enjoyed it and he loves it!”

The toughest part, according to Taylor is training the dog not to anticipate commands. After running through scenes over and over, the dog knows when Banyas will be calling for him. Ever eager to please, Doogan will sometimes oblige ahead of his cue.

Ironically, sometimes you can know your part too well.

Fogell cautioned Banyas of becoming blasé herself. After months of rehearsing, the trick now is for all this magic to seem unrehearsed.

The rag-tag gaggle of orphans is charming, each bringing a uniqe set of coping skills to their challenging circumstances. Some rely on spunk, others play their vulnerability for all they’re worth.

In real life, most of the girls have credits in other BPA (theater school) productions. They have marquee-worthy names: Priya, Lafayette and Makayla. But Fogell swears there’s not a diva in the bunch.

Spunky Molly is played by Dana Craighead, who shares the billing again this year with the whole Craighead-Van Duyne family.

Backstage, volunteer and mom Molly Measer kept an eye on the young cast and a lid on the volume.

“Sort of like herding cats,” she joked. “It’s a good group. They know their lines. They’re really ready.”

Yes, but are they ready for Miss Hannigan?

“She can be really mean,” said the lanky Emily (Lafayette Chabot). “But she’s nice in real life.”

“She’s like a frenemy,” Banyas said. “Friends in real life, but pretending to be enemies on stage.”

Pepper (Chloe Lesh) put a compassionate spin on the Miss Hannigan role:

“She’s a bit misunderstood. She doesn’t really have a loved one. It’s kind of sad the way she is. But she’s a heavy drinker, and she takes it out on the kids.”

Therapist in the making.

Get there early for a seat on opening night, but if it’s sold out, don’t worry. There’s always tomorrow.

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