'All about Annie' in Willard

Cary Ashby • Mar 29, 2019 at 9:00 AM

WILLARD — Ella Schag plays Grace Farrell in “Annie,” who is sweet and motherly to the orphan.

Schag’s character is the personal secretary to Daddy Warbucks (senior Jadon Luna). The Willard High School sophomore’s younger sister, Naomi, an eighth-grade student, portrays Annie. Schag said acting with Naomi is an asset since it keeps their scenes from being too awkward since they know how each other will react.

The Willard performances of “Annie” will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Last year, Schag played violin in the orchestra for “The Addams Family.” Although she has a variety of theater experiences in Mansfield, being on stage at Willard is a new experience. Part of that has been challenging her vocal range.

“Playing the part of a soprano when I’m a natural alto has helped me become a better singer,” said the daughter of Joe and Keely, who has been learning to use her “head voice” and “not push it” too hard to hit the notes.

For junior J’aime McLeod, singing Miss Hannigan’s part is much closer to her range — a first for her. While other roles has meant that the daughter of Jamie McLeod and Stephanie Breyman had practice a lot to stretch her vocal range, Miss Hannigan’s songs are much more comfortable.

“That part has been going well,” J’aime McLeod said. “She’s a low, raspy alto and I relate to that. … I’m actually a tenor.”

Getting the role was a priority for the teen actress.

“It was my ride or die role; I was super excited when I got it,” McLeod said. “I don’t get to play the villain very often. She’s sassy and knows what she wants.”

A bit of time passed in rehearsals before the teenager could be as forceful as Miss Hannigan needs to be with the students playing the orphans. She said knowing her character is “head-strong” helped her get the right acting vibe.

“It’s hard because all of the kids are adorable. It’s taken a month-and-a-half to know I have to yell at them because that’s the character. It’s been a process,” McLeod said.

Cast members said the actors and actresses have done a great job with bringing their characters to life.

“Annie” is the first musical for two seniors, Cassidy Loftland and Blake Smith.

“I thought there’d be some apprehension to take the stage, but they’ve really taken to the spotlight,” Luna said.

The son of Paris and Christine first met Naomi Schag, his “Annie” co-star, in orchestra.

“I knew her in orchestra a little bit, but I really got to know her here on stage,” Luna said. “She’s become a good friend. … There is kind of a big brother-y-type feel, which really helps.”

There’s a certain sense of déjà vu with Luna portraying Daddy Warbucks.

This is the second consecutive year he has played a paternal figure. Luna was Gomez in “The Addams Family.” On the other hand, Daddy Warbucks is a reluctant father-figure to Annie.

“He’s really masked with who he is,” Luna said. 

“He puts up this gruff persona,” but the teenager said Daddy Warbucks eventually “lets himself go,” especially during a stroll through New York City so his character, Annie and Grace can watch a movie together.

“This time it has to be all about Annie,” Luna added.

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