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.”
For any actress, Miss Hannigan in “Annie” is one of the juiciest roles in all of musical theater – the boozy, loud, scheming woman who runs the orphanage.
When Teshia Johnson got a chance to sink her teeth into the role, she was thrilled.
“I have loved the movie ‘Annie’ since I first saw it as a child,” said Johnson, who’s playing Miss Hannigan in CTH’s production. “I grew up watching ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ with my grandmother and I was always enamored by her portrayal of Miss Hannigan. No matter how mean she portrays herself, she ultimately just wants to be loved. If you think about her taking a job at an orphanage, to be the only person that the orphans could care about by default, she’ll take love anyway she can get it, even if it’s by force.”
“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.”
Johnson, who lives in Lansing, has two daughters, 19-year-old Jordan and 6-year-old Kylie. She works for the State Department of Education as the Program Analyst for the Great Start Readiness Program, which is the State-funded Preschool Program.
This is Johnson’s second show with CTH; her first was “Disenchanted.”
“I sing at my desk at work all the time, much to the delight or dismay of my fellow co-workers,” she said. “My co-worker Heather Lucas, a producer with CTH, suggested that I audition for the annual fundraiser being directed by Sherry Smyth-Randall. The fundraiser was a production of the hit off-Broadway show ‘Disenchanted.’ I was cast as The Princess Who Kissed the Frog, my debut performance in the theater.”
Johnson says that Howell’s nagging reputation as a town that might not be welcoming to minorities gave her some pause when it came to auditioning for that show.
When she got to Howell and got to know the people in CTH, though, she found that perception was definitely not reality.
“The people, hands down, are the best thing about CTH,” she said. “CTH is comprised of some of the kindest, supportive, encouraging and genuine people that I have ever met. To be honest, I did not know what to expect when I was selected as a cast member for ‘Disenchanted.’ Not being from Michigan, I heard many things about the community of Howell that were none too kind, and I was worried about how I would be received.
“However, I can honestly say that I was welcomed into this CTH microcosm with open arms by every single person that I met. Even the people who came to see the shows were super kind and complimentary. I can honestly say that I have found ‘my people.’ I plan to keep auditioning and being in as many shows as I can, even with the drive from Lansing.”
And with opening night coming up next week, Johnson is loving every second of her time as Miss Hannigan.
“I’ve been a singer my whole life, so I am no stranger to the stage,” she said. “However, to sing, dance and act – that is a real challenge. I love singing, but putting on a show means being part of an amazing team to bring a full production is a real challenge. ‘Disenchanted’ will always have my heart, but to be cast as Miss Hannigan in ‘Annie’ – this is a dream role for me. I am very grateful for the opportunity.
“I love rags-to-riches story of Annie. Annie was a natural leader; even the older kids listened to her. Although she may have been rough around the edges, she had a good heart and it brought her the love she was always looking for.”
Johnson also said that she can promise one thing – the audience is going to be highly entertained.
“We have an amazing cast and crew, but I believe (director) Kevin Rogers’ vision for our show is one that people will want experience. I can’t wait to meet you all.”
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, with 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.