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‘Annie’ affirms Baldwinsville Theatre Guild future

Stage-savvy kids assure BTG success for years to come

— Having first staged “Tish” in 1943, the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild is the longest-running community theater group in Central New York, and it keeps that torch burning by passing it on to young entertainers.

Judging from the talent and teamwork displayed by the two dozen precocious performers in this summer’s “Annie,” BTG enjoys a deep pool of experienced players from which to draw for years to come.

“Annie” opened on Broadway in 1977, ran for nearly six years and, with countless tours and amateur mountings, has evolved one of the evergreens of American musical theater.

Just as “Annie” pleased moviegoers with screen versions in 1982 and 1999, it pleased the SRO audience that turned out for last Saturday night’s show at the Presbyterian Education Center. And, why not? The songs by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin are short and catchy, the simple plot – book by Thomas Meehan based on Harold Gray’s “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip – unfolds rapidly and is resolved satisfactorily.

On top of all that, the BTG production boasts a surefire mix of confidence and exuberance demonstrated by this cast of kids. They sing, they dance and they deliver their lines like troupers!

With her big green eyes complementing her character’s trademark red hair, Gwen Mercer played the title role Saturday evening (she alternates with the equally talented Shannon Beel). Mercer exudes a self-assurance beyond her years that serves her well both in dialogue and singing. Her full-bodied voice ably articulated every syllable of every line and lyric. Plus she’s cute as heck, as expected.

Two of Mercer’s sisters are also in the show. Appearing as Duffy, one of the orphans, older sister Eve Mercer was the answer to choreographer Marjorie Taylor’s prayers. Eve’s a sure-footed dancer, who not only knows how to hoof it, but also handled a repeated comic shtick in which she stomps on somebody’s toe. Younger sibling Rose Mercer filled out the ensemble.

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