Julia MacLean is Annie and Steve Maddock is
Julia MacLean is Annie and Steve Maddock is "Daddy" Warbucks in the Royal City Musical Theatre 25th anniversary production of Annie. Photo by David Cooper.

The Arts Club may be celebrating its golden anniversary in Vancouver, but just a couple of cities to the east New Westminster’s Royal City Musical Theatre (RCMT) is celebrating its own milestone with a production of Annie as its 25th anniversary show.

[pullquote]Easton’s twelfth show with RCMT, seven as choreographer and six as director, it is one part location and one part raw new talent that keeps her returning to New Westminster year-after-year.[/pullquote]“This is one of the shows that both of the past Artistic Directors at Royal City Musical Theatre had shortlisted and one that we have never done,” explains current RCMT Artistic Director Valerie Easton who also directs and choreographs the show.

Calling Annie a fabulous family show, and one she is certain will appeal to the theatre company’s demographic, Easton says part of the secret of a successful musical is one that works for both children and adults.

“There are so many wonderful characters in this particular show.  Miss Hannigan is one of the great comic characters.  It also has a great score and some iconic songs that both the kids in the audience and their parents will know,” she says of the show’s appeal.

Easton’s twelfth show with RCMT, seven as choreographer and six as director, it is one part location and one part raw new talent that keeps her returning to New Westminster year-after-year.

“Massey Theatre is such a magical venue that we don’t have many of anymore,” she says of the now 60-year old venue whose size allows RCMT to perform large-scale musicals like Annie.  “RCMT also has a teaching aspect to it and is seen as a stepping stone for some of the up-and-coming performers who know they will get a professional experience, and perhaps even get seen by other directors as they make their way to being professionals.”

Valerie Easton returns to direct and choreograph the Royal City Musical Theatre's 20th anniversary production.
Valerie Easton returns to direct and choreograph the Royal City Musical Theatre’s 25th anniversary production.

For Easton, size also matters with the sound that the 20 or so piece orchestra that they pack into the Massey’s pit each year, all under the direction of James Bryson who shares his own silver anniversary with RCMT. “Along with the big sets and big costumes we also get this really wonderful big sound that you just can’t get electronically,” she says.

Helping to create that big sound is the large Annie cast, including many children and one dog.  But despite W.C. Fields’ advice that one should never work with either, Easton says it has been a pleasure even as she finds herself still dealing with final callbacks for the role of Annie’s dog Sandy at the time of our interview.  Fortunately Easton has had some recent experience with stage dogs as director of last year’s Theatre Under the Stars production of Legally Blonde, a show she will direct again in a remount this summer at Malkin Bowl.

Based upon the syndicated Little Orphan Annie comic strip by Harold Gray that ran in newspapers around the world from 1924 to 2010, Annie tells the story of the little orphan with the curly red hair who ends up in the lap of luxury with Depression-era billionaire Oliver (Daddy) Warbucks.

The Royal City Musical Theatre production features Port Moody’s Julia MacLean in the title role and Capilano University music instructor Steve Maddock in the role of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks.

Annie plays the Massey Theatre in New Westminster April 10-26.  Visit http://royalcitymusicaltheatre.com for tickets and information.