What could be a better boost to our continually COVID-infested minds and souls than a jolly old rip-roaring musical where, rocky road notwithstanding, you just know all will be well in the end?
That sunny view of life will be delivered, in colorful, musical and definitely insouciant style by the Encore! Educational Theatre English-language company when it puts on its latest production, of 1980s American musical Annie, later this week and next week. All told, the current run takes in six performances, at the Masorti High School in Talpiot, Jerusalem.
Director Aviella Trapido feels that Annie is a triumphant comeback for her and the other members of the dedicated Encore! crew, including trusty long-serving colleagues producer Robert Binder, musical director Paul Salter, and choreographer Maayan Allen.
“We felt at a loss about what to do. We knew we had to do a big name, something positive,” she says. “Annie was the ticket. Annie was the best choice. It comprises everything we were looking for in a musical – music and fun.”
She and the rest of the team were also keen on getting back on stage, for the first time since the pandemic, with a project that reflects the thinking behind the company which has been doing its theatrical-musical best for a decade and a half now.
“We always love productions when we get to work with a whole array of people from different backgrounds and ages. The cast includes kids as young as eight years old, all the way through to people in their seventies.”
That stretch, says Trapido, has been core to the company’s credo since the beginning. “That is something very special to us, because Encore! prides itself on being educational theater, and we really want to raise a new generation that loves and appreciates the performing arts. And what better way to do that than when grandchildren and grandparents get to work together in the same cast.”
Added to that, particularly in these virtual communications, virtual reality-laden times, Encore! supports the onstage action with live music, played on actual manually operated instruments. “We have a full band conducted by Paul Salter. He has put together a wonderful band with nine pieces. Encore! has had the privilege of working with amazing musicians, which is also another aspect of doing musicals, being in the position to unite all different factors into one show.”
TRAPIDO AND the rest of the gang have been rehearsing for Annie since the end of September, putting in their hours while hoping upon hope there would be no more lockdowns or other restrictions on movement, and on presenting live entertainment.
“We have been very fortunate with that,” she laughs. “Encore! was forced to shut down a production of South Pacific just when corona hit. We were literally a month and a half from going on stage when everything shut down. That was a real blow for us. We wondered if we were ever going to get back on our feet again.”
That sounds a little like the storyline of Annie. It is a tale of hardship and anguish but, in true Broadway fashion, ultimately it all works out.
This is a pretty grandiose undertaking, with a cast of 63 actors and singers, including a bunch of newcomers. “One of our cast members, who has just joined us, is retired,” says Trapido. “He is trying out something new. People come in, audition and if they have the talent they join us.”
That, notes the director, is one of the positive upshots of the pandemic era. “People have had time, actually too much time, to reflect about what they’d like to be doing with their time, and being creative and expressive. Working in theater is just so magical because everybody finds their place, whether you’re on stage or backstage, creating props or costumes. Or maybe you’re a techie and you’re into creating lighting and that kind of thing.”
At the end of the day, Trapido feels that, for the company personnel, it is about joining hands to achieve a common goal. “Encore! is a community, a family. Everybody finds where they want to be within that community. We enjoy working together so much, and watching it come together is magic.”
The Jerusalem audiences should be prepared to be duly charmed.
For more information: www.encore-etc.com