To help promote the summer musical production of “Annie,” the cast, crew and directors as well as former students of the Ellis County Children’s Theater will dress up in character and even sing while serving pancakes to hungry guests this weekend.
On Saturday, community members can meet, greet and eat with the familiar faces of Annie, Daddy Warbucks, Miss Hannigan and orphans from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar. The restaurant is located at 601 N. U.S. Highway 77 in Waxahachie and tickets are $10 a person, $6 of each ticket will go to the theater group.
“We’re having high school kids serve as waiters. The Ellis County Children’s Theater (ECCT) alumni and friends will be singing waiters, so people can request a song,” said Robin Benson, the program’s new managing director who started in May. “We have to do everything when you do one of these breakfasts. You have to bus the tables, take out the juice and water. We provide the waitstaff. We do everything but the cooking.”
The event is just one of Applebee’s Flapjack Fundraiser Breakfasts, said restaurant manager Cody Stinson. He said the restaurant tries to book out every Saturday of each month for a pancake breakfast, and this will be the restaurant’s first time to play host for a musical fundraiser.
“We like reaching out to the community, and it helps the organization and helps us a little more with sales,” he said. “They sell the tickets and get to serve the people who maybe wouldn’t know about it, especially in a tight-knit community such as Waxahachie. Plus, it gets people in our doors, and we love helping out, especially on the local level.”
ECCT is trying to raise funds with hopes to go beyond just supplying resources for the five summer theater classes it provides and eventually find a place to call its own. Right now, the program operates out of the Waxahachie High School Fine Arts Center, said the founding director Gail Harrell, who is also Benson’s mother. So as the theater program looks toward the future, the group is hoping to find its own Daddy Warbucks, Harrell said.
“Who are you? I know you’re out there. I know you are. I know you want to help kids and build their future, and we need a home,” Harrell said. “We’re borrowing. We’re always borrowing. We’re always renters. We’re the Clampets, hanging out at the high school. We need a place where our kids can own it and perform.”
More importantly, Harrell said, the group is hoping to raise awareness that “Annie” will go on a week later.
“Annie” is about an 11-year-old girl who has lived in an orphanage for most of her life and is trying to find her real parents. That orphanage is run by Miss Hannigan, and after several unsuccessful escape attempts to get away from the cruel woman, Annie is placed in the home of Oliver Warbucks, a billionaire, even though she’s still looking for her real family and a real home. Warbucks decides to help in the search and as Annie begins to warm up to what could be her new home, Miss Hannigan’s brother and his girlfriend pose as Annie’s parents to claim a reward offered by Warbucks. That’s where the troublesome adventure begins. Performances will be held at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on July 18 at the Fine Arts Center.
“We had a tough time casting the show,” Harrell said. “I was positive I knew who Annie was going to be. There was no question in my mind, and it got down to four little girls and they stood up on the stage and they sang ‘Tomorrow’ one by one. I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s really good.’ Then, we got down to the last Annie and I was accompanying her. Her name is Delaney Morrill, and we got to her and I didn’t even know who she was. I’m playing for her and I’ve got the soft pedal on, and I realize immediately as an accompanist, she needs a lot more support. I took my foot off the soft pedal and just really gave her what she needed, and she just blew everybody out of the water.”
The entire mission of the theater group is to take the children of Ellis County, at an early age, and teach them how to make good decisions and explore their creativity, Harrell said, adding Breakfast with Annie and the “Annie” production fall right in line with that lesson.
“They don’t have to sit behind a computer or with an iPad in their laps,” Harrell said. “They can enjoy each other’s company and in the future — in 20 years — they’ll continue to make those great decisions and that great creativity we’ve put in them will live with them.”
Tickets for the breakfast are available online at www.ecctheater.org, while tickets for “Annie” will be sold at the door of the Fine Arts Center.
“It’s just going to be a fun event for the community, and we hope that people come out,” Benson said.