It has been 30 years since Annie, the musical, was performed at the Porterville Barn Theater, and 15 years since it was performed in Lindsay. Now, “Annie Jr.” — based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” will have the sun coming out tomorrow. Or in the Barn Theater Jr. Company's case, stars will come out — on November 26.

Directed by Dr. Mary Shaw and Jason Porter, the production is sweet and touching — and perfect for the cast.

“I always try to pick a play where we have potential,” Shaw said. “Annie was a good choice. I have a group of younger (actors) and they have a chance to shine.”

The story also has a Christmas back story and there's a big reveal at the end, Shaw said, which makes it a great holiday production.

“It's about hope and always keeping a positive view of life — things are going to work out,” Shaw said. “It's applicable to our current situation. With the pandemic and the economic crisis, this applies to Franklin D. Roosevelt's 'New Deal.' Annie inspires FDR to create a new deal.”

Another reason for the choice is the music, Shaw said.

“The music is very iconic and the tunes are familiar to many people so we picked something the audience can sing along to,” Shaw said. “We have 24 kids cast, from second grade to juniors in high school — from beginners to some who have been in the program since the beginning.”

Shaw said it gives her joy to see the students flourish.

“They've become such sophisticated performers,” Shaw said. “They've embraced all we've taught them. They have become little professionals.”

And they have developed their acting skills, communication skills, problem solving and other important skills, Shaw said.

Joseph Ayala, Andrea Ortiz and Kierstin Hall, who play the roles of Rooster, Lilly and Miss Hannigan, were proof of it as the three practiced their song and dance routine of “Easy Street.”

Ortiz said she was grateful for the experience under Dr. Shaw, and Ayala said it felt good to be back in the theater.

“I'm super glad everything is going back to normal. It shows you how good humanity is deep down and shows how hope can shine through,” Hall said.

Kamlynn Newlin, who plays the role of Annie, is in her fourth year with the Barn Theater Jr. Company.

“Whenever we have a new show, I always audition for the part which I can relate to the most,” Newline said. “The biggest life lesson I've learned is to always be kind because no one wants to work with a grumpy person.”

Her mother, Kerry Newlin, agreed and said Kamlynn has always been outgoing.

“She's a dancer — always on stage and she loves theater,” Newlin said. “This has given her an avenue to perform. She loves to be on stage and loves to perform. She's usually in a great mood. I'm very proud of her.”

Porter, who has been involved with theater since 1995, his freshman year at Long Beach State University, said he returned to Porterville after a long hiatus. He played the dentist in the Barn Theater's production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and has been hooked ever since, he said. Now he is's co-directing the musical, and said he's proud of all the young actors, including his two sons, Kai and Rio Porter.

“I talked to Dr. Shaw and told her I'd like to start helping and use my education and theater background to help engage kids at a higher level,” Porter said. “They're not just performing but understanding theater at a higher level.”

His philosophy, he said, is thinking of it as the young actor's second school.

“The rehearsals are their homework as they work on singing and choreography. Then we release them to the world for three weeks,” Porter said, referring to the three weeks of the show. “Then they come back and start all over again.”

And there's something he always tells his students, he said.

“Never stop learning,” Porter said. “That's what I want to instill in them. If you're going to be in theater, you have to study theater.”

His own son, Rio, won a scholarship to New York to attend a workshop, Porter said.

“He auditioned with a song from (Walt Disney's) “Newsies” but it didn't happen. He didn't go because COVID hit,” Porter said. “These kids are amazing. For the kids in general — they're here. They go to school and then they come here. They devote hours upon hours every week, like a second job. They're devoted to this and I'm excited for their future.”

“Annie Jr.” will play on the theater stage. Featured dancers from Dance Horizons will also perform the New York City scene under the direction of Analia Whittington and Wendy Jones.

There are no reserved seating to help spread people out as much as possible.

“The big thing with the pandemic is the Barn Theater was closed month after month,” Shaw said. “We need the community to come out for this play to help the theater to continue to operate.”

Annie Jr. opens November 26 with Friday and Saturday shows slated for 7 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. It runs Nov. 26, 27 and 28, and December 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12 at the Porterville Barn Theater, 42 S. Plano.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased at www.portervillebarntheater.com

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