DANBURY, Conn. -- Olivia Cotter, a 12-year-old from Danbury, learned about the "hard-knock life" before landing the lead role in "Annie Jr." at the Musicals at Richter in her hometown this week.
Last summer, Olivia banged her head on a cabinet and suffered a serious concussion. But after a long recovery period, she is now feeling more like herself and comparing herself to the iconic red-headed character.
"I'm certainly not as feisty as Annie, or as mean -- she can be mean sometimes," says Olivia. "And she's very hopeful -- over-the-top hopeful. That's not me, either."
But she is thrilled to have the part. "She's a fun character to play," Olivia says.
Her favorite song in the production is "Maybe," followed by the show-stopping "Tomorrow" as a close second.
Olivia, who will be in eighth-grade this school year at Rogers Park Middle School, sees herself as a triple threat as a performer -- actress, singer and dancer.
"I like doing them all together -- not by themselves," says Olivia, who dreams of a career on stage.
She joins a cast of 24 kids who are all enrolled in the Musicals at Richter’s Summer Youth Musical Theater Workshop.
"It's great -- they all want to be here," says director Lauren Nicole Sherwood, who runs part of the day as a camp and part as a rehearsal for the show.
"They learn all there is to know about theater," Sherwood says. "It's not just learning about this show, but what they need to know for the next show." The kids take classes, paint the sets, make the props, learn the parts and perform. But they also have time to play, enjoy a pancake breakfast and get dressed up for special events such as Pajama Day and Spirit Day.
The performances will be Aug. 14, 15 and 16. The popular musical has been adapted as "Annie Jr." for younger performers and audiences.
Audiences will recognize the charms of little orphan Annie, the bitter Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage and billionaire Olive Warbucks.
The other members of the "Annie Jr." cast are Jules Buzzi, Becca D'Ostilio, Gabby D'Ostilio, Sierra Geoffrion, Lucas Geoffrion, Emma Halas Emma, Julia Heiden, Abby Heiden, Cassidy Holmes, Hannah Krate, Tori Kuffler, Jackie Logsted, Hailey Posmantier, Brooke Stillman and Eric Wallin of Danbury; Julia Field of Brewster, N.Y.; Kelsey Heyel of Bethel; Shreya Kanetkar of New Fairfield; Nikki Kearney of Redding; Nidhi Soman of Newtown; and Kelly Manning, Daisy Stott and Jonathan of Brookfield.
The grounds open at 7 p.m. for picnics, with the performances under the stars starting at 8 p.m. Chair rentals are available, along with a snack and soft drink concession.
The shows are at the Richter Arts Center, 100 Aunt Hack Road next to Richter Golf Course.
All tickets are $13 in advance or $15 at door, with an additional $1 added by the Richter Park Authority for Friends of Richter Park.