From now until opening night on Nov. 15, the Livingston Post will be profiling cast members of the Community Theatre of Howell’s production of “Annie.”
They’re the Community Theatre of Howell’s triple threat. Or triple treat.
CTH’s production of “Annie” takes the stage starting next weekend, and a very familiar threesome has been leading the way.
Kevin Rogers is the show’s director, Anni Ulman is the choreographer and Bethany Bean is the vocal director. This is the third straight CTH musical that they’ve been together as a production staff, following 2016’s “Beauty and the Beast” and 2018’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Why do they keep coming back for more?
“I have so much respect for both Kevin and Anni, and always look forward to working with them,” Bean said. “They’re just really cool people. I’ve always admired Kevin’s ability to see the potential in those who audition for our shows. He doesn’t always cast those performers who have ‘already arrived.’ He is amazing at encouraging talented newcomers to the theater, and helping them develop into the skilled performers you see on stage. And Anni is a true visionary. I’m always in awe of her choreography, and how the cast looks when dancing in our shows.”
“I love working with Anni and Bethany for many reasons, but mostly, I can be myself,” Rogers said. “I’m direct to a fault, so I appreciate that I don’t have to tiptoe on eggshells. Plus, I implicitly trust them that their choreography and vocals fit into my show, and they always exceed my expectations. We’re a great team because I try to foster a lot of collaboration with the staff, so we already go into a show knowing each other’s tendencies, so it’s that much easier to go through the process.”
“They’re both so talented and so good at what they do,” Ulman said. “Bethany is a brilliant vocalist who brings people to their peak with such a kind and respectful approach. Kevin is so dedicated to the success of every show he directs. He knows the show forwards and backwards long before the auditions begin.”
And despite his ultra-big personality (and voice), Ulman said that Rogers is actually a softie.
“Under his tough exterior lies one of the biggest hearts you will ever encounter,” she said. “I think we make a great team because we truly respect one another. We take the work and the show seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We each let the other two do THEIR thing. I love working with these two and I am so grateful to have them both in my life as fellow artists and friends.”
Rogers lives in Brighton and works at the University of Michigan as a server engineer. His family is CTH through-and-through (wife Theresia and daughter Tori are both heavily involved in the group, as well), and he’s been involved in numerous shows as both an actor and director.
“Besides giving me something to do, it provides me the chance to teach what I know to others (as a director), and to be a total ham (when I act),” he said. “I really love it when I can get families on stage for a show. It’s something that they will remember 30-40 years from now.”
Ulman has been a dance teacher at Glenn’s School of Dance in Howell and Co-Artistic Director of Performing Arts Dance Theatre for 25 years. She and her husband Kevin have two daughters, 19-year-old Emma and 11-year-old Ellie.
“I love the family vibe that CTH brings to all involved,” Ulman said. “I have witnessed my own children, and many others, and adults for that matter, ‘find themselves’ here. It is an incredible group filled with so much heart. People underestimate community theater. I love when a new audience member comes to one of our shows and is blown away by the talent. You need not travel far for great theater!”
Bean works as an elementary school music teacher for the Walled Lake Schools, and she has two CTH-involved daughters, 20-year-old Abbey and 16-year-old Aimee. She became involved with the group in 2010, when Abbey was cast in her first show. Coincidentally, that show was “Annie” – the last time the group performed it.
“From that first production, it was clear CTH is a special place to be,” Bean said. “The staff was professional and supportive, the other parents quickly became close friends, and the way the cast bonded over the three months was so cool to see. One of the many things I love about community theater is the unique opportunity for all ages to work together on a production, and experience how the ‘family’ takes shape. The friendships my girls and I have formed over the years are cherished!”
“Annie” is the beloved Broadway classic based on the story of Little Orphan Annie. The musical tells the Depression-era tale of how Annie breaks away from the evil orphanage master Miss Hannigan, and how she wins the heart of the ultra-rich Daddy Warbucks. The songs include “Hard Knock Life” and the classic “Tomorrow.”
This is the third time that CTH has brought “Annie” to the stage, following productions in 1997 and 2010. Rogers, Ulman and Bean all say that this production has its own fresh take on the timeless musical.
“It’s ‘Annie,’ but we’ve added a few wrinkles and went with different ways to explore the relationship between Annie, Warbucks and Grace,” Rogers said.
“Audiences will be entertained with their singing, dancing, and they will feel the love and excitement exuding from the stage,” Ulman said. “Even if you’ve seen ‘Annie’ before, this will be a fresh take for all ages to enjoy.”
“The cast is phenomenal, and the sets transport you instantly into each scene,” Bean said. “It takes a village to put on a production (on stage and off). The fruits of everyone’s labor will be evident in this show. I can’t wait for audiences to take in the magic of Annie.”
The Community Theatre of Howell is presenting “Annie” at the Howell High School Freshman Campus, 1400 W. Grand River Ave., Howell. Shows are Nov. 15-17 and 22-24, with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday each weekend.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors, available at Finding Roots in Howell, Maria’s School of Dance in Fowlerville, Big Acre in Brighton, and Ed Bock Feed and Seed in Pinckney. Tickets are also available by calling 517-545-1290, or online at cththeatre.org. You can buy tickets by clicking here.