St. Ambrose Academy to present Annie Print
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 -- 12:00 AM
The cast of St. Ambrose Academy’s production of Annie runs through a scene at a recent rehearsal.
The cast of St. Ambrose Academy’s production of Annie runs through a scene at a recent rehearsal. Pictured from left are: Erin Butler, who plays Annie; Matt Marsland, who plays "Daddy" Warbucks; and Anna Marie Leone, who plays Grace. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

VERONA -- Students, staff, and volunteers at St. Ambrose Academy are gearing up to present another musical production.

After last year’s successful and award-winning production of Beauty and the Beast, the school is putting the finishing touches on the family favorite Annie.

This year's musical will again have a live orchestra as part of the full-length version of the production.

The website for the recent Broadway production describes Annie as the story of a lovable orphan, the title character, who goes on a spirited journey with next-to-nothing at an orphanage and finds her ideal family with big-hearted billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks.

The cast features a range of the school’s sixth through 12th graders. Sixth grader Erin Butler has the lead role of Annie. Twelfth-grader Matt Marsland, who was the Beast in last year's Beauty and the Beast, plays Warbucks.

St. Ambrose Academy staff and other volunteers are handling the production of the show.

Dean of Students Gina Pignotti, and Diane Marsland are the producers. Music and drama instructor Meg Aspinwall is the show’s director and vocal director, and is assisted by Blaine Hechimovich. Pignotti, along with Nicky Kaehler, is handling choreography.

Putting in ‘hard work’

The cast has been rehearsing the show at St. Christopher Parish in Verona. They recently had a full cast run-through of the production where they worked on lines and choreography.

"It's really fun. It's hard work, but I bet it'll pay off," said Butler.

"It's going very well. It's been tough because we've had a lot less time this time around than we had for Beauty and the Beast, but it's really pulling together and I think it's going to be a great show," said Marsland.

The production is coming along with a few personal sacrifices.

As last year's Beast, Marsland had elaborate hair and makeup to go with his role. This year, as Warbucks, he had to shave his head bald.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Marsland said. "As I started to come to terms with having my head shaved, I started to realize 'Maybe this will be a fun thing, it will be an experience. I'll get to wear lots of new hats. It'll be a fashion statement.'"

Living out their faith

The show also gives the students a chance to live out their faith. They start and end every rehearsal in prayer.

Marsland said Christ has a central role in the production, along with the cast and crew.

"If He's a central role in this production, we really say we're doing this for Christ and not for ourselves," he said. "That's how it will truly become a great production, if we're doing it for God and not for ourselves."

Butler, being one of the youngest cast members, but earning the musical’s title role, has let God guide her journey. "There's a lot of pressure. If God wants me to play Annie, then I'll play Annie," she said.

Both Butler and Marsland have found the experience to be rewarding.

"The most rewarding part is using my talents God has given me to benefit others and just to say that I have been in a musical in the lead role," said Butler.

"For me, I think it's the sense of community and fellowship that’s built up with my fellow St. Ambrosians and my fellow Christians," said Marsland. "We're all banding together to do this thing and with God and with each other, we can make it a great show."

Come out and see the show

The cast hopes many people in the diocese will come out and see the show.

"We've put a lot of effort into it and it's a great story with good morals," said Butler. "I really like the story myself because there's struggling, but then again there's relief. I think it's a really good story."

"It's going to be a great show that St. Ambrose is putting on and the message of the play, just like the message of Beauty and the Beast, is a really positive one," said Marsland. "It's just a real hopeful message, a real message of continuing through hardship, which I think is great."

Tickets are now available for Annie. Performances will be at the Verona High School Performing Arts Center, 300 Richard St., Verona. Show times are Friday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m.

A limited number of reserved seats are available for in-person purchase at St. Ambrose Academy, 602 Everglade Dr. in Madison, on Mondays in February from 3:15 to 4 p.m. The preferred method is reserving tickets by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by phone at 608-698-1571 for pickup at school any time or at will call at the show.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and children ages four to 14. Children three and under are free to share their parents’ seats.

For more information, call 608-827-5863, or visit


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