Tacoma City Ballet has seen sold-out success over the past few years with its in-house mini story ballets for kids “Haunted Theater” and “Storybook Ballet Theatre.” The recipe is simple: Keep it short (one hour), keep it cheap ($10) and keep it fun for families.
Now the company is branching out into something a bit different — a children’s ballet based on musical theater. “Little Orphan Annie” is a world premiere by instructor Kate Monthy that tells the story of the spunky little orphan through classic ballet and 1920s jazz tunes.
“I grew up watching the movie ‘Annie,’ ” says Monthy. “I loved the story and the songs and the spunky powerful girl lead.”
Obviously, in Monthy’s ballet you won’t be hearing “Tomorrow,” that song that most of us associate with the “Annie” story. Instead you’ll hear catchy tunes by the likes of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Paul Whiteman, set to dance by Monthy, a former Spectrum dancer who’s recent work has included an eloquent AIDS homage at Tacoma Art Museum. But the story’s the same: a little orphan with the chutzpah and optimism to rally her friends, rebels against the hateful Miss Hannigan and eventually finds herself a real family.
While the Broadway musical made “Annie” famous in 1977, the character goes back to an 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley, which he based on an orphan living in his own home. “Annie” evolved into a 1924 comic strip, a radio show, the Broadway musical, and movies in 1932, 1982 and 2014.
“The most challenging thing was how to adapt the story and take away the iconic songs that tell a great deal of the story,” Monthy explains. “Our story had to showcase the themes: the orphanage, her desire to escape, Hannigan as Annie’s nemesis and Warbucks as her savior. It focuses a lot on the orphanage because it’s a children’s ballet and I had a lot of kids!”
Monthy’s cast includes 30 members of the Tacoma City Ballet’s Junior Company ages 8-12, plus adults dancing the roles of Hannigan and Warbucks, along with a few older company dancers.
Little Orphan Annie
Where: Tacoma City Ballet, 508 Sixth Ave., Tacoma.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Information: 253-272-4219, tacomacityballet.com.