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Port Moody's MacLean plays Annie for RCMT's 25th year
Julia MacLean sits on a bench during a lunch hour outside her school, Moody middle.
She’s happy to answer questions about Annie, in which she was chosen to play the lead role for the Royal City Musical Theatre’s 25th year.
The show, which opens next week at the Massey Theatre, is “a good story about an orphan. She is optimistic. She knows what she wants,” the 12-year-old girl states.
MacLean says she can relate to Annie because she, too, has a spunky outlook. “I don’t fit the Cinderella or Rapunzel roles anyway,” she says, with a shrug.
The Grade 6 student first notice the call on the RCMT website and at Coquitlam’s Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts, where she has been a student for eight years.
She auditioned at Massey for the lead part. “Julia really knocked me out with her singing,” said director Valerie Easton, a Port Coquitlam resident. “Her ability to take direction and her vulnerability really sold me. She is a very talented girl.”
RCMT production manager Chelsea McPeake said Lindbjerg Academy is a “good breeding ground for Royal City,” with many of its students and teachers often winning character roles.
McPeake said Annie was selected for the milestone year to honour the late Ed Harrington, a retired teacher from Terry Fox secondary in Port Coquitlam who co-founded the theatre company; he would have liked a big Broadway musical, accessible to all ages, to mark its 25th anniversary, she said. (Coincidentally, Annie will also be on the big screen this Christmas, with Jamie Foxx playing an updated version of Daddy Warbucks).
RCMT’s Annie also includes a 20-piece orchestra under the musical direction of James Bryson.
MacLean’s eyes light up when she speaks about the show. “It’s a great cast. It’s amazing. Everyone’s so talented. It’s for everyone. Valerie is amazing.”
And though MacLean is no stranger to the Massey stage — she was in last year’s ensemble for the RCMT production of Hello Dolly — she admits being cast in the top job has been a juggle. She’s had to miss some classes to get the rehearsals in. “There are lots of them now,” she said, “but I can handle it.... I try my best to keep on top of school.”
Homework is done whenever she has a spare moment at Moody, at home and at Lindbjerg, she said.
She’s also had lots of support, especially from her younger sister, Jamie, who is playing Molly in Annie.
MacLean said she’s also getting help from her friends and teachers at Lindbjerg, where she regularly puts in 15 hours a week for lessons in dance, musical theatre and show choir.
Still, she’s not shy of hard work. Since last August, her star has risen steadily: she was in the finals of the PNE Showcase Showdown (which was won by Port Moody singer Tyson Venegas); in the fall, she took the Youth Talent Search title in Coquitlam, which gave her a guest role in the Maple Ridge run of Cinderella; and she was cast as Young Fiona in Shrek: The Musical at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby — the first show for the Coquitlam-based Align Entertainment (MacLean hopes to return for next year’s Addams Family).
Although she has another six years of schooling, MacLean said she’s already “thinking about tomorrow” — as Annie puts it — that is, her post-grad work in musical theatre. She is inspired by Idina Menzel (of Frozen) and pop stars Pink and Lady Gaga. “They are so strong. They always have a powerful message,” she said.
• Annie runs April 10 to 26 at the Massey Theatre (735 Eighth Ave., New Westminster) with opening night on April 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets at $29 to $45 are available by calling 604-521-5050 or visiting masseytheatre.com.