ALFRETON: Girl power rules in Ripley and Alfreton Musical Theatre Company’s show

Emily Weston, left, and Olivia Priestley, who will be starring in Ripley and Alfreton Musical Theatre Company's production of Annie.
Emily Weston, left, and Olivia Priestley, who will be starring in Ripley and Alfreton Musical Theatre Company's production of Annie.

There’s an old showbiz saying about never working with children and animals - but doing both is proving to be a success story for a mid Derbyshire group.

There’s an old showbiz saying about never working with children and animals - but doing both is proving to be a success story for a mid Derbyshire group.

Tickets are selling like hot cakes for Ripley and Alfreton Musical Theatre Company’s production of Annie, a heart-warming show about an orphan girl and her beloved dog.

It is the first time that the company, which can trace its roots back to 1935, has chosen the work to perform. Assistant secretary Jane Oates said: “It is lovely to do a show that we have never done before and it is refreshing to have young people who will hopefully want to stay involved.”

Director Phil Simcox said: “This is one of the biggest shows for kids. They are a joy to work with; they come up with ideas, create their own characters.”

Such was the interest in the show that 50 girls auditioned for the roles of orphans. Director Phil, choreographer Chris Parkes and musical director Dave Adey had the unenviable task of narrowing that down to 23 lucky performers.

Two were chosen to play the role of Annie - Emily Weston and Olivia Priestley, who are both 11.

Jane Oates said: “When you hear them singing, you couldn’t split them if you had your eyes shut. The first time I heard them singing, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”

Emily, a pupil of Swanwick Primary School, will be shadowed on stage by wheaten terrier, Barkley, whose owners live in Sutton-in Ashfield.

She’s planning a special treat for her canine chum on the show’s opening night, which is Barkley’s seventh birthday. “I’ll bring him a box of cocktail sausages - he likes sausages,” she said.

Olivia Priestley, who will play Annie at alternate performances, has been paired with one-year-old Willow. Her four-legged friend is a cross between a cocker spaniel and poodle and lives in Ripley.

She said: “Willow listens very well and is very well behaved. She likes it when you scratch her back really hard.”

Olivia lives in Greasley, Nottingham and is a pupil at St Thomas Primary,, Ilkeston.

l Annie runs at Alfreton Grange Arts College from April 8-13 at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.