Four Corners Musical Theatre Company heads back indoors for production of 'Annie!'
Director Randy West looking forward to greater predictability with new show
FARMINGTON − Ah, to be back in the great indoors.
Make no mistake − Four Corners Musical Theatre Company Director Randy West is a fan of the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater, where his company recently wrapped its extended production of "The Pirates of Penzance." But after battling the vagaries of a highly active New Mexico monsoon season for nearly a month in that outdoors setting, West is looking forward to being back inside the cozy, climate-controlled confines of the Farmington Civic Center for the opening this week of the troupe's final summer production, "Annie!"
"It is a blessing to be back inside and to have control over so many things," West said Aug. 10 while putting his actors through one of their final rehearsals for the new production.
West appreciates the amphitheater for its expansive setting, which allows his company to indulge in using such production elements as a full-scale pirate ship, as it did for its most recent show, something that would be impossible at the Civic Center. But the unpredictable nature of the summer monsoons resulted in a number of delays, close calls or outright cancellations during the show's four-week run, meaning West, his cast and his crew were never sure whether a given performance was going to take place from night to night.
"It was intense," he said. "But it was no different than what the Connie Mack World Series goes through every year."
The company's production of "Annie!" may be taking place in a smaller setting, but West said anyone who has gotten used to the blockbuster nature of his company's summertime productions won't be disappointed. The show has another large cast − 45 actors, 20 of whom are 8- to 14-year-old girls playing orphans.
"When we have everybody onstage, it really fills the Civic Center," he said.
Most of the adult actors in "Annie!" will be playing multiple roles, he said, meaning some of them are in for as many as four or five costume changes.
With a cast that large, West is relying on a large contingent of local amateur actors in addition to the professionals who are part of the company. The younger actors began their rehearsals for this production in May, and he said their months of preparation have paid off, as evidenced by their sterling performance in rehearsals of their first big production number, "It's the Hard-Knock Life."
"I told the adults, 'You better bring your A game because these kids are going to knock people's socks off,'" West said, laughing.
Performing the lead role in the production is Zada Lile, a high school sophomore from Durango, Colorado, who, at 15, is already a veteran of two other Four Corners Musical Theatre Company productions. She said she has performed in a previous production of "Annie!," a Durango Arts Center undertaking in which she was featured as Kate.
But this will be Lile's first turn in the spotlight, and her excitement was palpable as she prepared for opening night earlier this week.
"I love this company," she said.
Lile's only concern, she said, is working closely onstage with a live animal for the first time, an Airedale terrier named Arrow who has been brought in from California to portray Annie's dog Sandy.
"It was a little bit challenging, but I'm excited for when we get rolling," she said.
Lile isn't the only local actor who is featured prominently in the show. The wife-and-husband team of Melissa Stewart and Paul Stewart III are featured as Miss Hannigan and Rooster, respectively, while Shera Piper will take on the role of Grace Farrell.
West said his decision to cast those actors in those prominent roles reflects his commitment to seamlessly folding local talent in with professional talent on an increasing basis with the company's productions. The idea, he said, is that the first of the company's three productions each summer will be anchored by a heavily professional cast, with local actors being featured more prominently in the ensuing shows.
By the end of the summer each year, he said, he believes his company regulars − professional or amateur − will be so comfortable working together and so accustomed to the level of professionalism that is expected of them that there will be no noticeable difference between the level of their performances.
West believes his company is at that level now, having achieved a degree of cohesion this summer that extends beyond professional relationships.
"I think the whole company would say we're working together as a family," he said.
The Four Corners Musical Theatre Company presents its production of "Annie!" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 through Saturday, Aug. 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14 at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. The production continues Aug. 18-21. Tickets are $14 and $18. Visit fmtn.org/shows or call 505-599-1184 for tickets.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.