Managed by Mel: Director helps Lewiston Civic Theatre's Youth Company bring musical 'Annie Jr.' to life

You’ll find one adult at this all-children musical, and she knows how to run the show.

Responsibility and respect have big roles.

click to enlarge Maddie Hass sings "Tomorrow" with the help of Charlie Owen as Sandy in Lewiston Civic Theatre's production of "Annie Jr." - TRIBUNE/STEVE HANKS
Tribune/Steve Hanks
Maddie Hass sings "Tomorrow" with the help of Charlie Owen as Sandy in Lewiston Civic Theatre's production of "Annie Jr."

Mel Syverson, director of the Lewiston Civic Theatre youth company, is directing her third summer musical, “Annie Jr.,” which begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It is the classic 'Annie' musical,” she said.

But it's about an hour shorter than the full production.

That makes it, she said, “a little bit more accessible for the young to act in it.”

The entire cast is children and youth, 16-and-under, including most of the crew.

Syverson said the older crew is still young and are students who recently aged out of the youth productions, such as her two stage managers who are both about 18.

“I try to make sure that they learn about all aspects of the theater and they’re really good about jumping into the program,” she said.

Syverson used the Musical Theatre International version of this musical and the other two summertime productions, “Alice in Wonderland Jr.” and “School House Rock Jr.”

click to enlarge Mel Syverson
Mel Syverson

But Syverson doesn’t just stick with the juniors.

Syverson has directed dinner theater twice at LCT, and she just directed last season’s production of “Pride and Prejudice.”

“When I directed ‘Pride and Prejudice’ this year, I had to be honest to my cast. ‘I seem to have found a way that works with my kids, so I’m just gonna deal with you the same way I did with kids,’” she remembers telling her adult cast.

But, no, that didn’t mean she treated the adults like preschoolers.

“When I direct the kids, I put a lot of responsibility on them, that this is their show. We don’t want a show that’s good for a kids show, we just want a good show that happens to be a kid show,” Syverson said. “We put in the same time and effort that they do in the adult shows.”

And actually, Syverson said, those shows can be easier to direct.

“In some ways, kids are a little bit more pliable, easier to please, less set in their ways, so in a way they can be easier to work with, but not always,” she said. “They want a good show, they want to do well, they want to please me so I give back respect to them.”

“Annie Jr.” runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. House doors open 30 minutes before the show.

The main role, Annie, is played by 14-year-old Maddie Haas.

Sam Schacher, the previous lead in “School House Rock Jr.” is undergoing treatment for a cancerous brain tumor and was not able to perform in “Annie Jr.” Sylverson said a fundraiser will happen during both Fridays' productions of “Annie Jr.” A separate auction fundraiser for the LCT youth company will take place Thursday at the gala opening, which is open to the public. LCT recently installed a new red carpet and finished a repaint of the theater.

Tickets for the show are $10.65 for adults, seniors and students, while children under 13 cost $8.25. Tickets can be purchased online at www.lctheatre.org, by calling (208) 746-3401 or at the LCT box office.

Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or ltreffry@inland360.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @LindseyTreffry.

->if you go: WHAT: Lewiston Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie Jr.” WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8-10, 2 p.m. Aug. 11 WHERE: Lewiston Civic Theatre, 805 Sixth Ave., Lewiston COST: $10.65 adults, $8.52 children under 13

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