By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
ELKHART - Who says the grown-ups get to have all the fun?
Premier Arts productions of “Annie Get Your Gun” are set this weekend at The Lerner Theater in downtown Elkhart. An adult cast will perform Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and a youth cast will put on a show Saturday afternoon.
The musical “Annie” tells the story of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, who were sharpshooters in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
“It’s part fiction, part fact,” said Craig Gibson, Premier Arts artistic director. “It’s an Irving Berlin score, so there’s a lot of history just with that. Irving Berlin is one of the great American composers.” “Annie” tunes include “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do.”
Premier Arts is the resident theater group at The Lerner. Gibson explained that for several shows during a theatrical season, Premier Arts doubles up and does a youth theater production of the main show.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to have the exposure of playing those parts, because otherwise they would just be in the chorus,” he said.
In the dual “Annie” shows, Gibson said, “There’s an adult Annie Oakley and a kid Annie Oakley. There’s an adult Frank Butler and a kid Frank Butler.” Filling the young Annie’s shoes is Caroline Mereness, 9, a student at St. Thomas the Apostle school in Elkhart.
“I started performing because I just thought it would be a fun idea,” she said. Her first acting experience was with Premier Arts, and her first role — as a kindergartner — was that of a baby spider in “Charlotte’s Web.” Mereness has also performed in “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man.”
Mereness is upbeat about “Annie,” and praised youth director Sue Frost-Mayse for her help and guidance.
“The rehearsals are great,” she said. “...It is one of the best experiences I’ve had at Premier Arts in my life.”
For children all over Elkhart, Gibson wants the Premier Arts experience to be an educational one. Premier has a new youth outreach effort aimed at that goal, and it starts with “Annie.”
Performances for students have been part of the Premier plan, and pupils will see “Annie” Friday morning. The new project, Gibson indicated, targets third-graders in Elkhart Community Schools, who will receive a study guide to the musical.
“After the show, we’re taking our staffs to their classrooms and doing continual projects with them,” he added. “And then in the spring, (the students) are coming to The Lerner for — for lack of a better term — a theater field day.”
Gibson said the third-graders will take part in acting and dancing workshops, and do some singing — “kind of get a little taste of the theater.”
“We’ve always had this concept that we wanted to have every child in Elkhart experience Premier Arts by the fourth grade,” Gibson said. “This is just one step further.”
Showtimes and tickets
Performances are set for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The all-youth show is set for 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $15 for senior citizens and students and $12 for children age 12 and younger. For tickets, call the box office at 800-294-8223 or 574-293-4469 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit the website www.premierarts.org.
“Annie Get Your Gun” is being directed by Frost-Mayse and Gibson. Musical directors are Michael Rand and Ashely Frost Nugent, and Frost Nugent is also the choreographer.