Hamilton Southeastern High School senior Austin Henkel hadn’t even seen a version of “Annie” before auditions.
On top of that, Henkel hadn’t been in a musical since junior high.
Still, Henkel is taking on the challenge of playing billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in his largest role.
“The best part of portraying Oliver Warbucks is trying to come across understanding at the right times while still having that abrasive rough edge that he has because he’s not socially aware of what other people are dealing with in the time period (1933 during the Great Depression),” Henkel said.
The school production of “Annie” is set for 7 p.m. March 12 to 14.
“It’s a lot of fun to get back into musicals after being away from it for so long,” Henkel said. “I enjoy acting but I’m also part of the choirs, so it’s not foreign to me.”
A baritone, Henkel said some of the notes are a little high for him.
“The directors have allowed me to work on it and get better,”
Henkel hadn’t seen the film until watching the 1999 version.
“I watched it during the audition process to get a better grasp,” Henkel said.
Senior Tori Niemeier plays the title role of Annie, her first lead role at HSE.
“I love the music in it, so it’s something I already knew pretty well coming into it,” said Niemeier, who will wear a red wig in what is her first lead role. “The best part is meeting new people and getting closer to everyone.
“The responsibility is fun, too. I like learning new songs and dancing.”
Niemeier’s favorite song is “It’s The Hard Knock Life.”
“Tomorrow” is fun as well, Niemeier said, because she gets to sing with the dog.
“There are so many different versions of ‘Annie.’ I think everyone will like it,” she said.
Senior Izzy Hiott plays Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage.
“She is such an iconic role,” Hiott said. “It’s been a fun time to portray her in different ways instead of just some mean lady who just hates children because that couldn’t be farther from myself. I’m very grateful to get to play her.”
Hiott has watched Carol Burnett’s portrayal of Miss Hannigan in the 1982 movie.
“She’s amazing. I took a lot of inspiration from her,” Hiott said.
Hiott has been in every school musical since her freshman year, but this is her first lead role.
“I’ve had so much fun and it’s been such an amazing experience,” she said.
Hiott plans to major in elementary education and minor in theater education at the University of Southern Indiana.
“I want to keep theater a part of my life,” she said.
Junior Kamaiah Norris plays Warbucks’ personal assistant, Grace Farrell.
“I love how classy Grace is,” Norris said. “I’m more extra about my style. Grace is more classy and elegant. I love how she expresses herself in such a poised way.”
Norris said her favorite song is “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” because Annie is being introduced to a new environment.
Director Ethan Mathias said the school hasn’t presented “Annie” in more than a decade.
“With everything going on in the world, having a show about hope and a little girl being optimistic about stuff is refreshing,” Mathias said. “It’s a classic and everyone knows the songs.”
Mathias’ wife, Devan, is directing the choreography.
For more, visit hsedrama.org.