October 25, 2014
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J-DAPA bringing 'Annie' to JHS stage
Sun Rise photos by Pete Fontaine
VINTAGE LOOK: Dressed in garb dating back to the 1930s and the Great Depression, the youngsters who’ll perform in J-DAPA’s production of the musical “Annie” take their places on stage that resembles a municipal orphanage of yesteryear.

The stage inside Johnston High School’s spacious auditorium was occupied by a group of young girls all dressed alike and resembling a scene from a municipal orphanage.

Meanwhile, about a half-dozen adults sat in the seats and other children scooted to a higher level, some to operate lights and others to go over a checklist.

It was all part of yet another rehearsal – the type of practice that has made J-DAPA, or Johnston Dance and Performing Arts, among the best community theater groups in Rhode Island.

Donna Tellier, J-DAPA’s founder and tireless director, is busy holding rehearsals for what could be her troupe’s finest hour ever.

On successive weekends in May, J-DAPA will present “Annie,” that marvelous musical set back in the Depression and whose cast members have even had a history lesson about what life was like back in the 1930s.

And the talented young people take their work so seriously, they even have those history lessons during rehearsals.

“Annie” will be held in the Johnston High auditorium on May 2, with the curtain going up at 6:30 p.m. The May 3 show will begin at 2 p.m. On May 9-10, “Annie” will begin both nights at 6:30 p.m. For ticket information, call 944-4866 or visit www.j-dapa.org.

The cast and technical crew consist of students and residents of Johnston and communities throughout Rhode Island and even neighboring Massachusetts.

“Our group is made up of students from [Nicholas A.] Ferri Middle School, Johnston High School, our school’s alumni, teachers and parents,” Tellier said Monday night. “One of the best memories I will take away from this experience is how everyone has gelled together.”

When J-DAPA began holding rehearsals for the famed musical – that’s been everywhere through the years including Broadway – Tellier said, “Everyone seemed separated and kept to themselves. Now, just weeks before the performances, we have cast members who have made friends from other schools and communities, as well as adults.”

Tellier, whose theatre productions have been known for their perfection, added, “I think these friendships help with the transition from elementary to middle school as well as middle to high school a little easier for many of our students. It’s always a little more comfortable to be somewhere new when you know someone.”

And that explains why several adults – who took in Monday night’s dress rehearsals – emphasized that people won’t be disappointed with the amazing talent in this show.


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