Atlanta native takes stage in “Annie”

Atlanta Lyric Theatre is bringing the Broadway musical “Annie” back to Atlanta.

It’s been 90 years since Harold Gray’s syndicated comic strip “Little Orphant Annie” debuted in the New York Daily News. Based on James Whitcomb Riley’s dark poem “Little Orphant Annie,” Gray’s comic ran 86 years before cancellation in 2010. Together, they spawned the 1977 Broadway musical “Annie."

“Any production of 'Annie' is always a huge undertaking. The show not only features large sets, a live orchestra and numerous production numbers, but add in more than a dozen children and a dog and you can see why some producers shy away from such a task,” said Brandt Blocker, the theater’s managing artistic director.

The family friendly musical produced 2,377 performances and jump-started the career of actress Sarah Jessica Parker whose stint as Annie surpassed her predecessors.

Up next to play the spunky red-headed orphan is Atlanta native Sarah Charles Lewis, 9, who began singing before she could talk.

“She would hum to the tune of anything she heard and was on pitch,” said her mother Jennifer Lewis.

The third-grade Crabapple Crossing Elementary student was born into a family of performers. All Atlanta natives, her father Shack Lewis performed at the Alliance Theatre at the age of 12 and her mother was a music major in college. Sarah and her 13-year-old brother have both performed on stage under the Carson-Adler Agency in New York, who guided the early careers of Britney Spears and Lea Michele.

“Annie” opens Friday and runs through April 20 at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre in Marietta.

“I am very excited,” said Sarah. “I love having so many kids around, playing Annie, and I love the dog.”

On top of homework and studying her lines, Sarah also had to learn how to command Sandy, Annie’s canine best friend.

“I had to learn how to do sign language with the dog. There is a scene where I tell her to ‘come’ but I hold the sign for stay behind my back.”

When it comes to being the main character, with the most lines to remember, Sarah finds it more of a passion than a challenge.

“I get better with my lines as rehearsal goes. It makes me really happy. Music warms my heart,” she said.

Sarah is also a member of the Renaissance International School of Performing Arts, where she has performed in many stage productions including “Seussical” the musical and “Shrek.” She also has showcased her singing abilities in “The Little Mermaid” medley.

With a dream to take the stage on Broadway in “Wicked,” Sarah is moved by each character she takes on. She is passionate about the songs she sings — so much so you could forget she won’t turn 10 until August. Her favorite song from “Annie” is the musical’s iconic number “Tomorrow.”

“When I sing it, it gives me hope. It is a very strong and soulful song,” she said.

Living in Milton and starring in a play in the Atlanta area allows Sarah to polish her craft while being close to home and school.

“Sarah Lewis is an exceptional talent. Her professionalism and manner is beyond her years. We are truly blessed to say ‘we knew her when’,” said Blocker.

With plans of doing more performances in the future, Sarah is happily doing what she loves, in the city where she grew up. But she does not plan to stop here. “Performing is what I love most and really can’t think of doing anything else. I want to be the biggest star.”

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