“We decided to go out with a bang.”
Nan Muntzing explained Annie was always on Potomac Theatre Company’s wish list of musicals it wanted to produce. The family appeal and the celebrated score were just two selling points of the popular retelling of Little Orphan Annie’s quest for a family.
“But for some reason or other we could never get the rights to it,” according to Muntzing, a co-founder of PTC who is currently on the theatre’s board.
That is until now. Potomac Theatre Company opened Annie on March 14 and continues performances through March 30.
It has been worth the wait.
“I can tell you it’s worth the trip to see these girls,” gushed Muntzing. “They are amazing. Annie Coulson, the girl playing Annie, and the orphans. We keep getting asked ‘where did you find these girls.’”
PTC board member and box office manager Marilyn Shockey echoed Muntzing’s praise for the young performers. “They get everything the first time. And when they come out for curtain calls, the audience goes crazy.”
And don’t forget Sandy, Annie’s four-legged companion. “Everyone loves the dog,” Shockey added.
The audience response has been huge. “We still have tickets but they are getting more scarce,” Shockey explained. Muntzing chalks it up to the popularity of the show and those amazing little girls.
“When you have children in a show, the audience fills up quickly with parents, grandparents, siblings, their school friends, it’s wonderful,” for business.
But once Annie and Daddy Warbucks celebrate a new deal for Christmas for the last time on March 30, PTC’s business will be done. After 25 years of community theatre in Potomac, the company is closing down.
“The board is aging, contributions are down, and we had a great time over these years,” Muntzing explained. “The board came to the decision together. And that’s why finally getting to do Annie seemed like the right thing to do.”
Ed Spitzberg, who plays Oliver Warbucks, agreed. “Optimism is such a huge part of the show, you feel it all the way through.”
Spitzberg said even though everyone is aware this is the PTC’s last production, no one is dwelling on the finality of the moment. “Everyone’s focus is the show and doing it up right. There’s no gloom and doom at all.”
Ed Spitzberg may be remembered by a stage name from the recent past: Eddie Lounge. Spitzberg performed the Eddie Lounge show during Capital Fringe in 2006 and 2007. Getting cast as Warbucks in Annie is his first time back onstage since his last Fringe gig.
“It’s because of my four year-old, curly-haired daughter, who is a Christmas baby,” offered Spitzberg. “We wanted to see the recent Broadway run of Annie but couldn’t get to it. She loves the music, can sing “NYC.”
A co-worker at the Afterschool Alliance where Spitzberg is the vice-president of development put him on to the auditions at the Potomac community theatre. “I did not know them at all, but I thought, wouldn’t it be great if my little girl got to see her dad in Annie?”
She saw the show last week, said the proud papa, with one slight disappointment. “Her favorite part was ‘Hard-Knock Life.’
Spitzberg has nothing but praise for the Annie cast and crew and PTC. “I am thrilled with the level of professionalism. It’s a great group and a great space. I am just a little sad I joined them at the end of their great run.”
Potomac Theatre Company started the evening Nan Muntzing was introduced to Patti Warner at a social gathering in 1989. Nan remembered, “A mutual friend introduced us and we discovered we shared a lot of the same interests – music and performing. That very night, Patti said, ‘Why don’t we start a theatre?’ We didn’t really know where to begin, but I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
The next day they began planning and decided on their fledging theatre’s first production, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. They blanketed the Potomac area with audition flyers, stuffing mailboxes and bulletin boards.
That’s where Marilyn Shockey entered for the first time. “I was taking a voice lesson and the teacher had the audition notice in his choir room. He encouraged me to go audition.”
Twenty-five years later, after many musicals, plays, children’s shows (some written by Shockey), the veterans are still at it. Muntzing and Shockey serve on the board and both are in Annie, PTC’s swan song. Shockey is Mrs. Greer, one of Warbucks’ housekeepers, and Muntzing is one of the Shanty-town residents who sings “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover.”
As bittersweet as the closing of Potomac Theatre Company is for newbies like Ed or for the longtime volunteers like Nan and Marilyn, there are no regrets.
“We have tons of wonderful memories,” said Muntzing. “When people were in a show, they called it their therapy. We became a family and many of the original folks have stuck with it all these years.”
Potomac Theatre Company’s production of Annie runs thru March 30 at Blair Family Center for the Arts, at the Bullis School, 10601 Falls Road, Potomac, MD 20854. For tickets call (301) 299-8571. Details and tickets.