Since 2005, locals thespians involved with the theater troupe out of St. Louise de Marillac Church have strived to deliver quality and entertaining performances to audiences looking for solid theater right in their own backyard.
And, despite a busy year for the church — which has included the merger with Brookfield’s St. Barbara Catholic Church, forming the new Holy Guardian Angels Parish — the theater troupe has not only survived, but is thriving as it prepares to debut its 15th spring musical, “Annie,” this weekend.
Formerly the St. Louise Players, the newly renamed Guardian Angel Players is set to debut two casts performing the beloved Tony Award-winning musical set during the Great Depression.
“Annie” tells the story of a young orphan who longs to leave her New York City orphanage run by the mean Miss Hannigan, with the belief that her parents left her there on accident.
It marks the eighth musical production directed by Brookfield resident Barb Molina, a longtime member of Guardian Angel Players. She says the troupe has wanted to do “Annie” for many years, but this year made it the right time to produce the show.
“I like to think of the theme of our show, which is ‘tomorrow’ and ‘hope,’ is also the theme of our new parish,” Molina said. “We have hope to keep going as a strong parish, and our theater group can keep going with the support of a stronger parish.”
Both casts include about 40 members, with participants ranging in age from 8 years old to senior citizens.
LaGrange Park resident Michael Miller, who is one of the founding members of the Players, serves as producer and ensemble member for “Annie.” He says during this year’s parish restructuring and theater troupe renaming, the show fits the group’s ongoing mission more than ever.
“We have a mission that is family-oriented and intergenerational, and builds bridges between the parish and the rest of the community,” he said.
Westchester resident Joe Mills, who plays Daddy Warbucks, says locals of all ages should come see the production both because of the high production quality of the performance as well as the fact that Guardian Angel Players supports both the development of a greater community and positive inclusion of children.
“We do training so that [our shows] are about safety for kids and working directly with them,” Mills said. “I really appreciate the kid-friendly environment. It is not only parish-centered — it is people of different age groups, congregations and backgrounds. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The two girls cast in the lead role of Annie are 14-year-old Avery Andersen, of Hinsdale, and 11-year-old Emma Buscemi, of Brookfield. “Annie” is the first Guardian Angel Players production for both girls, but both are seasoned actors who have performed with other local theaters.
Buscemi, a sixth-grader at S.E. Gross Middle School, hopes children see the show and realize there is more to life beyond TV and cell phone screens.
“Instead of being on social media where you don’t get to do anything, you get to actually be around people and it’s really fun to be with your friends,” she said.
“I’ve met so many amazing people when doing local theater,” Andersen said. “Because you’re in local theater, everyone is from around the same areas as you, so you can always go back and talk to them. It’s just brought so much good to my life.”
All in all, after the business of parish restructuring and the Players’ renaming, Molina says the theater group is blessed and has a bright future ahead.
“We’re very happy we are able to bring together a lot of people from different backgrounds and do these very good productions,” she added.
“Annie” opens Friday, Feb. 21 and closes Sunday, March 1. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. and Sunday performances begin at 2 p.m. Performances are at Holy Guardian Angels Parish Center, 1125 Harrison Ave., LaGrange Park.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or by visiting brownpapertickets.com and searching “Guardian Angel Players.”
For more information on how to get involved with the Players, visit Facebook.com/StLouisePlayers.