Ava Sullivan takes on her third different role in “Annie, Jr.” as Miss Hannigan, along with Youth Arts Ambassadors Maddie Straight and William Deever. CONTRIBUTED

Youth Arts Ambassador finds ‘Annie, Jr.’ a good fit

Middle-schooler plays another role in musical.

Ava Sullivan has something of a guardian angel looking over her acting career and her name is “Annie.”

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The 13-year-old Northridge Middle School student is about to perform in her third different role and third variation of the hit musical about the spunky redheaded orphan.

The Springfield Arts Council’s Youth Arts Ambassadors’ production of “Annie, Jr.” plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 15, at Turner Pavilion in Veteran’s Park.

“Maybe ‘Annie’ means something,” said Sullivan, who this time plays cranky orphanage manager Miss Hannigan.

It was 2010 and she was just a 6-year-old kindergartener when Sullivan’s grandmother encouraged her to try out for the Summer Arts Festival production of “Annie.” Her family bought the musical CD to get her prepared, although she wasn’t sure what would happen.

Not only was Sullivan the youngest person cast out of the 100-200 auditioning, she got one of the lead orphan roles, Molly, the youngest orphan and Annie’s best friend.

“I just wanted to be in it,” she said, looking back.

While her memories of the time are scant, Sullivan recalls mispronouncing a lot of dialogue as she was just learning to read and designing buckets for the “It’s the Hard Knock Life” number.

It was there she also met another future Youth Arts Ambassador, Kyla Collins, who is also in this production of “Annie,” and the first time she worked with Arts Council Executive Director Tim Rowe, who directed it, and Chris Moore, music supervisor.

It was the show that clinched Sullivan’s love of theater, and she’s gone on to perform in two shows a year including Summer Arts Festival productions of “Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and last year’s “Mary Poppins.”

Last year also saw Sullivan return to “Annie” in a school production and this time she went from sweet, innocent Molly to older, mean girl orphan Pepper and the additional role of Star to Be.

It was fun to play a character different from her personality and inspired Sullivan to do it again. When the Arts Ambassadors announced this production, Sullivan went for the Miss Hannigan role.

“Another thing I remember in 2010 was being able to mock Miss Hannigan in ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’ and now I’ll get mocked,” Sullivan said, laughing. “The woman who played Miss Hannigan then inspired me.”

Sullivan said maybe if there’s another future tour of “Annie” that she’d love try for a role. She’d also like to play scheming dumb blonde Lily St. Regis and other dream roles include Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family” and Eponine in “Les Miserables.”

For now, she hopes others will enjoy the hard work Sullivan and her fellow Ambassadors have put into this production.

“It’s a very kid-friendly show and has a great message for all ages,” she said.

Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com.

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