How two theater newbies clinched the iconic ‘Annie’
Beating 500 equally talented young girls from all over the country, 10-year-old Isabeli Araneta Elizalde and 9-year-old Krystal Brimner bagged the iconic role of Annie at the upcoming stage offering of Resorts World Manila despite having minimal—or in Brimner’s case, none at all—theater experience.
Elizalde, the spirited daughter of former model and socialite Bianca Araneta and businessman Juan Elizalde, considers her new assignment as her biggest break yet. Before Annie, she had only shared her young passion for theater in school plays.
Brimner, on the other hand, is no stranger to the lucrative world of entertainment. She made headlines in 2015 when she won the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) Best Child Performer award for playing the role of John Llyod Cruz’s daughter in the controversial MMFF entry Honor Thy Father. But officially, Annie will be her stage debut.
And how did the two clinch the role of Annie—the optimistic orphan who, preferred to put on the cheering glass for all the adversities she faced, until she was saved by a snooty millionaire who adopted her?
Director Michael Stuart explained the criteria of the selection: “They have to be able to hit certain notes . . . and have to be physically able to do the singing part of it.”
At a press conference at Resorts World Manila, Williams also stressed the importance of talent, which these two young ladies certainly have. “The ability to understand the character and interpret the music—these kids are fantastic in those areas as well, ” he said.
Working with children
Later, in a sideline interview with The Manila Times, Williams said that both child actresses “had the most personality” for the role, and so they got the lead role.
Based on Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, which made its debut in 1924, Annie is portrayed as an innocent, kind, polite, caring, and brave 11-year-old girl.
“You can tell Isabel is very plucky, she’s got such a strong personality. While Krystal has gentleness, a nurturing quality. Both characteristics are very strong in Annie so . . . I took the pluckiness in one and then brought out the nurturing side in the other so they evened out,” Williams explained.
While they had varied styles because of their different backgrounds, Williams is confident they could adapt to stage acting in time for their opening in September.
On top of all, both have musicality—the most important factor in a musical, he said.
“They both have great expressive singing voices and they kind of have affinity for the role, they understand the role so it’s easy when we talk about it, they get it right away,” noted the director.
The big production is a totally new and overwhelming experience for both Elizalde and Brimner so much so that when The Manila Times, talked to them, after a series of interviews with other media, the two admitted that they never expected the press conference to be rigorous.
Nevertheless, they gamely shared how they and their parents felt when they were confirmed for the role.
“My parents and I were all proud that I got the role and my mom started sending messages to all our relatives when I got the role,” Elizalde jested.
For Brimner her parents’ reaction could be said in two words: pleasant surprise.
Brimner then admitted how difficult it was for her to get her role, “There were so many kids and they were all very good.”
She was lucky, however, that there were some cues from her experience in acting. Brimner cited the difference between the two platforms of movie and a stage performance.
Elizalde, meanwhile, wasn’t right away set on auditioning for the musical. Though she has watched both Annie’s 1982 and 2014 movies, playing Annie was far from her mind.
“I didn’t want to be Annie because at that time I didn’t know like what her characteristics were. I just knew the songs. But I was really interested in it. My mom said I have to audition because it’s good opportunity,” the energetic young star said.
Finally, asked how they, young and up and coming stars, perceive the stage and theater, Brimner innocently admitted that it somehow scares her, “Stage is scary. Because it’s huge and we’re gonna act on it. But I enjoy it.”
Elizalde mirrored her co-star’s answer and said, “I watch a lot of plays, like Les Miserables and Wicked so I know that it’s not that easy but I also know that I can do it and I am very hopeful.”
So what’s to expect from these two as they grow up in full view of the public eye?
More auditions and more plays.