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Orphans, billionaires, the President and a charming little dog

SOLON– There are no hard knocks when it comes to the Solon High School (SHS) drama department; only rave reviews.
Roughly 60 students comprised the cast, crew and orchestra of SHS’s production of “Annie, the Musical,” a Broadway adaptation performed Nov. 13-15 to nearly sold-out crowds at each show. With the help of several volunteers to help with set decoration and props, director Jessica Frerich said the community came together to create another successful show.
“The discussion of doing Annie as this year’s musical was prompted after its new success as a movie remake,” Frerich said. “We have such talented kids and the musical was a perfect fit for this year’s cast.”
Annie was played by Elizabeth Hand, Oliver Warbucks portrayed by Ely Kleinsmith and Lillee McAtee played Warbucks’ assistant Grace Farrell. The main characters were supported by a skilled orchestra of 17 (directed by music directors Joel Foreman and Desmond Cervantes), and an adept cast of animated orphans and versatile extras, with James McAtee as Rooster, Ellen Cross and Lilly St. Regis and a standout performance by Jenna Roskopf as Miss Hannigan.
Sandy the dog was played by Gravee, a black-and-white pooch with a definite stage presence who belongs to Kris and Jerry McAtee.
“Gravee did an excellent job as Sandy, and also played Toto when SHS did Wizard of Oz in 2011,” Frerich said. “Gravee came to all dress rehearsals to prep for his role as Sandy, and also went to the groomers the day of opening night for a trim and wash.”
As engaging as Gravee was, Frerich acknowledged that a successful production is always a group effort.
She credited the role of Solon’s committed staff.
“All of students training in music– and even in their home classrooms, with out-loud reading and class plays– help to prepare these students to be confident speakers and singers on stage. I think it’s pretty great that our superintendent and high school principal were involved in music and drama... the support is outstanding,” Frerich said.
Frerich also commended the community for its unwavering support.
“Our community is hands-down the best community for fine arts support,” said Frerich. “Spotlight, our fine arts boosters, go out of their way to aid the drama department in any way they can. Members of the community showed up every Saturday to help tech directors and designers complete our many set pieces and others brought props.”
And praise continues to be heaped upon the many talented students who star in Solon’s stage performances from season to season, Frerich noted. She spoke of a strong work ethic demonstrated by all.
“There is absolutely, without a doubt, something in the water in Solon,” said Frerich. “Not only do we excel in the classroom and on the field, but also on stage. Some of our kids work in the morning, go to school all day, have sports practice after school, then a piano lesson and finally (rehearse) the musical until 9 at night. I am in complete awe of their ability to even complete their homework, let alone pull off an amazing production year after year.”