All-female cast of ‘Annie’ wows like-gendered audience
By Eva Trieger
LA JOLLA, California — Director Karen Flexer Friedenberg’s message came through loud and clear, Wednesday night, June 20, on the JCC’s Garfield Theater stage. The students of Torah High comprised an all-female cast of Annie for an-all female audience. Friedenberg charged each of her actresses to “do something hard, out of your comfort zone and element, and succeed.” This is precisely what they did.
Although 90-minute rehearsals were held only weekly, this troupe of more than 30 girls, performed flawlessly and from their hearts. Many witty lines updated the play from its original inception and certainly the fact that males were represented by females deviated from the original, 1977 script.
Torah High is an Orthodox Jewish day school in La Jolla, and as such is not coeducational. According to religious strictures women do not sing before men because it could be provocative and lead to an intimacy that is reserved for marital relationships. The male roles in this production were performed by females, and while women are not encouraged to wear masculine clothing, in the presence of only other women this is permissible, according to Friedenberg.
The updated dialogue, crafted by Friedenberg, not only entertained, but furthered her mission in giving these girls the challenge to grow and expand their range while enhancing their self worth. When Mr. Warbucks (Hannah Gordon), hears about Orphan Annie (Shiran Arusi) he is a bit dismayed. “I would have preferred a boy.” Then upon meeting Annie, he offers, “I would prefer a child with chutzpah”. Chutzpah is very much what the director has given to each member of her ensemble.
It was evident from the smiles, precise choreography and line delivery that each actress on stage knew she was integral to the show’s success and that she had mastered her role. The audience obviously enjoyed the smattering of Yiddish phrases and references as well as the wonderful costumes and props created by Mary Ellen Petix and Judy Kelin.
Friedenberg challenged and guided these young “orphans” and young women brilliantly and compassionately towards a safe and supported path of stretching their wings and taking flight. This was the fourth show that she directed, and I, for one, will be first in line for a ticket to her next.
Trieger is a freelance writer specializing in the arts. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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