Upper Saucon girl plays Annie at Philly’s Walnut Street Theatre
“Annie” was the first stage show that Upper Saucon Township actress Jenna Seasholtz saw and her babysitter was playing the title role.
Seasholtz has been starring in the title role in “Annie,” through Jan. 7, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia. Seasholtz plays Annie weekends and for select matinees. “Annie” opened Nov. 7 at the Walnut.
“I saw ‘Annie’ before. It was my first show ever and Annie was played by my babysitter. I loved her and seeing her up on stage I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” says Seasholtz, a triple threat singer-dancer-actor.
The 1977 Tony Award-winning musical, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Marin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, tells the story of an optimistic orphan who searches for her family during the Great Depression. The musical, which features the popular songs, “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” is based on Harold Gray’s popular comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” which debuted in the 1920s.
Seasholtz’s stage credits include a Munchkin in Walnut Street Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” Baby June in “Gypsy” at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, Mary Hildebrand in “Street Scene: An American Opera” at Muhlenberg College, and Susan Waverly in “White Christmas” at The Pennsylvania Playhouse.
It took two auditions for Seasholtz to land the coveted role of Annie.
“I had to submit my head-shot and resume to Brian [Kurtas, the casting director] and then he gave me a time to audition. I had to go into the room to sing ‘Tomorrow’ and then I got a callback for later that day to dance,“ says Seasholtz, 10, a cyber-schooled fifth-grader and daughter of Kristine and John Seasholtz.
“After the dance callback, they asked me to come back on a different day. I got to come back and say lines and meet Sunny [Sandy the dog] and sing again for a lot of people. I was the only one in the room. And then a couple of days later, I got the call to ask if I wanted to be Annie.”
Seasholtz’s mother kept the exciting news from daughter.
“I was at my Mom-Mom’s and Grandpa’s house. My mom gave me an ‘Annie’ shirt and asked if I could wear that if I wasn’t Annie. I said, ‘Sure!’ But then she said, Well, will you wear if you are Annie?’ I jumped up and said, ‘Am I Annie?’ And she said, ‘Yes you are,’ and I screamed. I was so happy,” Seasholtz says.
The young actress rehearsed long hours to prepare for the lead role in “Annie.”
“I worked from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for six days until tech week which was from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. I really enjoy being with everyone and singing, so it was fun. We learned Act One in the first week and then Act Two in the second week. It was a lot of learning new things, so I didn’t get bored,” Seasholtz says.
The high-caliber cast includes Sunny, the dog who plays Sandy.
“She is a William Berloni dog and the Broadway and National Tour Sandy, so she is amazing. I get to have dog-time and Rochelle Smith, the dog handler, is the best so she lets me hang out with Sunny all the time,” says Seasholtz.
“I love my fellow cast-mates. The orphans are the best. The adults are so nice and make me laugh. Paul Schoeffler, Daddy Warbucks, is the best and we have so much fun together. That is why I love singing ‘Together At Last’ with him at the end. We have a lot of jokes together.”
Seasholtz says that the message of “Annie” is one of hope.
“She [Annie] always looks on the bright side. She is spunky and tough but really has a great heart and has so much love to give. My favorite part of ‘Annie’ is getting to be Annie.”
“Annie” is directed by Glenn Casale, choreographed by Michelle Gaudette, with music director John Daniels, set design by Robert Andrew Kovach, costume design by Mary Folino, lighting design by Paul Black, sound design by Ed Chapman, and animal training by William Berloni.
Seasholtz stresses the team effort that went into producing the show.
“The costumes are amazing and I love my red dress. The sets are amazing and the audience always loves the Christmas tree at the end. I would like to thank everyone: the cast; Glenn Casale, the director; Brian Kurtas, the casting director, and Bernard Havard, artistic director, for the opportunity. I am the luckiest kid to be able to play Annie at the Walnut.”
Tickets: Walnut Street Theatre box office, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia; walnutstreettheatre.org; 215-574-3550