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Phoenix Festival Theater’s production of “Annie” is set to deliver a generous dose of optimism and cheer — not a bad idea for those of us who are snowstruck and looking toward spring. Although the lively Meehan-Strouse-Charnin musical about Little Orphan Annie is set during the Great Depression, the feisty little redhead looks on the bright side as she sings her theme song, “Tomorrow” — and brings the audience along for the ride.
“Annie” opens Friday at the Chesapeake Theater at Harford Community College, 401 Thomas Run Road, and runs for two weekends. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday matinees are both sold out. Tickets, $9 for those 17 and younger and $18 for adults, are available at 443-412-2211.
Megan Koncurat stars as Annie. The natural redhead is delighted to share the stage with her mother, Cathy, and sisters Abby, 9, and Rachel, 11. The 13-year-old Bel Air girl has already been cast as Annie in Southampton Middle School’s spring musical. The credit for training Megan’s fine voice goes to her mother, who used to teach music in Baltimore County.

Annie has the gumption to defy sadistic Miss Hannigan, the orphanage matron, played by Becky Titelman. Since returning from New York, Titelman teaches at County Ballet. She commented that “Annie” is her favorite musical and that “Little Girls,” the number in which she twists off the head of a baby doll, is her favorite song in the show.

“The first show I did in Harford County was Molly when I was six,” she said. “My dad [Bob] was Mr. Bundles [the laundry man]. It’s neat to be back on the stage where I grew up performing.

“I like little kids, so it’s hard for me to scream in their faces,” she said, “but that’s why I am an actor.”

As fate would have it, Annie comes to the notice of billionaire industrialist Oliver Warbucks, played by Steve Aronson, of Joppatowne. He said he plans to shave his head for the role.

“I’m committed to the part,” said Aronson, who recalled, “I played Rooster [Hannigan] in high school in 1984.”

For the Phoenix festival production, Rooster is played by Gary Dieter, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and a veteran actor on local stages. Rooster involves his sister and his girlfriend, Lily St. Regis, played by Tammy Crisp with many a bump and grind, in a plot to fleece Warbucks. They celebrate — prematurely — in the trio, “Easy Street.”

The orphans — Mackenzie Brockmeyer, Taylor Gallihue, Michele Lecza, Kathleen O’Neil, Taylor Erin Patrick, Natasha Roland, Miranda Scott, Marissa Smith, and Briella Tutrani — entertain in “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” and their version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed (Without a Smile).” The youngest orphan, Molly, is played by eight-year-old Tori Gay.

Another reminder of the hard-knock life comes from homeless and jobless residents of a shantytown they call Hooverville as they sing “We’d Like To Thank You, Herbert Hoover.” Little do they know that the New Deal may brighten their future.

Dave Guy, last seen at PFT as Victor Velasco in “Barefoot in the Park,” reprises his role as President Roosevelt. Beth Higbee plays Warbucks’ secretary, Grace Ferrell. Other talented cast members include Lisa Barbero, Jennifer Craze, Steve Flickinger, Stephanie Knox, Bobby Mahoney, Elizabeth Marion, Adam McDowell, Katie Meyers, Joseph Murphy, Mike Schafer, Sandra Scott and her daughter Shaina, Paula Diggs Smith, Rachel Tate and Allison Weiner. The children’s ensemble includes Delaney Flickinger, John Moses and Elizabeth Tate.

Dickie Mahoney directs the show, with assistance from music director Marji Eldreth, choreographer Larry Hensley, stage manager Amy Jo Smith, lighting designer Todd Mion, set designer Niles Norton, costumer Becky Flickinger, technical directors Jeff Kanyuck and Kerry Brandon and production manager Jessica Brockmeyer.

Sandy, Annie’s canine companion, is a handsome Goldendoodle who works for doggie yogurt drops. He also appeared in Havre de Grace High School’s production of “Annie.” He belongs to The Tates, who bought him because young Elizabeth loved the musical “Annie” and wanted her own Sandy dog.

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Amira Jennings, 17, who dreamed of opening up her own beauty salon one day and loved helping her family, was killed by a hit-and-run driver Thursday morning.

Baltimore area residents continue to report serious problems with U.S. Postal Service delivery this week as the union representing local postal workers says their processing equipment is being dismantled.

Strong City, a nonprofit that helps local organizations manage funding, acknowledged problems Friday afternoon, saying it had not kept pace with its rapid growth of recent years.

Local contractors say any number of issues with customer-owned equipment could have led to Monday's blast, which killed two.

Ask Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander why he’s among baseball’s leaders in RBIs, how he improved his plate discipline or what’s allowed him to be a better defender in 2020, and the answer in his native language is likely to include "el trabajo," Spanish for "the work."

The leaders of the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates decried as “truly shocking” a six-figure severance package received by Gov. Larry Hogan’s new chief of staff after the official voluntarily left an independent state agency he was running.

Baltimore’s acting public works director said recent delays in trash and recycling pickup have been caused by staff shortages due to COVID-19, as well as a spike in trash being set curbside during the pandemic.

Many businesses have been reopening across the country during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including restaurants, bars, malls and gyms. But the reopening of schools has become a particular source of stress for teachers and staff as well as parents and guardians of school-aged children. Uncertainty and safety concerns have prompted many to look into “pandemic pods” — here’s what to know about this concept, including how one could look as well as its pros and cons. (Kaitlin Miller, The Active Times)

Wacky Waffles, a mobile catering business that’s serviced weddings, festivals and more in the Baltimore area, is putting down roots in Patterson Park this fall.

Artist-turned-carpenter Mark Supik has a wood-turning business that is the place to go for one-of-a-kind wood requirements.

Just two weeks into the month, the Baltimore region has already seen far more rain than average for August.

Maryland’s 24 school superintendents voted unanimously Friday to request that state health officials create clear benchmarks for deciding when students could safely return to school buildings.

Officers were called at about 10 a.m. to the area of West Ridgely Road and Francke Avenue, where a passenger who had been asleep on a Maryland Transit Administration bus woke up, and started shouting he would shoot people, said police spokesman Kevin Gay.

Family members of Shaliqua Watson, 21, remember her life after she was fatally shot on Saturday, Aug. 8.

While nearly seven in 10 Maryland households have answered their census questionnaire for the once-in-a-decade tally, that still leaves more than 800,000 that have not. And there are neighborhoods in Baltimore where more than half the residents are still officially uncounted.

Three men who spent a combined 108 years in prison for a murder they did not commit filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, alleging that Baltimore Police detectives coerced false statements and manufactured a narrative that implicated the three youths to the crime.

Maryland has opened a statewide hotline to report potential violations of executive orders meant to stem the spread of COVID-19, contrasting Gov. Larry Hogan’s previous statements that local jurisdictions should take more control over enforcing the orders.

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