Bet your bottom dollar it’ll be a hit

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There’s an old showbiz saying about never working with children and animals - but doing both is proving to be a success story for Ripley and Alfreton Musical Theatre Company.

They are to perform Annie, a heart-warming show about an orphan girl and her beloved pet dog, at Alfreton Grange Arts College from April 8-13 at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

It is the first time the company 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 in some way.”

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 and you feed off their energy.”

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.

Emily, a pupil of Swanwick Primary School, will be shadowed on stage by wheaten terrier, Barkley.

She’s planning a special treat for her canine chum on the show’s opening night, 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 Catholic Primary School, Ilkeston.

Two of the girls playing orphans have played the role of Annie with other companies. Sophia Pilsworth played the leading lady in Swanwick Hall School’s show and Lauren Holby-Quinn starred in Heanor Operatic Society’s production.