NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 8, 2012

Local youth, dog star in 'Annie'

Local youth, dog star in Actorsingers' 'Annie'

By Katie Lovett Features Editor
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Amesbury’s Julia Yameen got nipped by the acting bug when she was just 5 years old.

The tot and her mother went to the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport to see the Exit Dance Company production of “The Nutbuster,” an unconventional twist on “The Nutcracker.” As the plot unfolded, Julia was surprised to see her classmates onstage, acting in the show. The child, who loved to dance and sing, wanted to join them.

So, she was enrolled in acting classes. Soon, she was ready to attend auditions at the numerous local theaters and join in community productions. Her resume includes roles in “Pinkalicious” at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine and a Pentucket Players production of “The Sound of Music.” Next month, she’ll play the role of Scrooge’s sister in the North Shore Music Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

In 2010, Julia played the lead in a Pentucket Players production of “Annie,” and this weekend, she’ll do it again — this time for The Actorsingers production in Nashua, N.H.

Reprising the role of the little red-headed orphan was a happy turn of events for Julia.

“I really love performing in ‘Annie,’” she said this week. “It’s just a really great story.”

Julia has also played the part of the littlest orphan, Molly, in a production of “Annie Jr.”

Already familiar with the musical’s classic songs, such as “Tomorrow” and “Hard Knock Life,” Julia said many of her lines easily came back to her.

Although the Amesbury Middle School sixth-grader arrived at the first rehearsals not knowing any of her fellow castmates, that soon changed during the months of practices that followed.

“You grow attached to them,” she said of her fellow actresses and actors.

Julia also became attached to the four-legged member of the cast: MiniMe, the terrier who plays Sandy.

“She’s really good; she’s been trained really well,” Julia said.

The rescue dog was adopted from the MSPCA-Nevins Farm in Methuen last year by Georgetown’s Kathy and Bob Sachs. The couple chose to spend Thanksgiving volunteering at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals location.

The couple was awestruck at the dog’s resemblance to their 10-year-old dog, Angel, and won over by her loving personality. Fellow volunteers suggested the Sachses bring the dog, then called Nena, home for a little visit. By the end of the weekend, their family had a new member and the dog had a new name, in honor of her resemblance to Angel.

Granted, the new addition required a lot of work at first.

“She had no training at all,” Kathy Sachs said. The dog had never walked on a leash, seen a veterinarian or eaten dog food. She was fed table scraps and she had no manners.

“She had basically been raised as if she were a child,” Kathy Sachs said. “We had to do a lot of training with her. I work with her every day.” Their perseverance and dedication paid off when MiniMe completed a series of training courses, offered by the MSPCA, and passed the Canine Good Citizen test.

The dog has also finished pet therapy training, so when Kathy Sachs completes her own training classes, the pair will volunteer at local hospices.

Through MiniMe’s trainer, Sachs heard about the upcoming production of “Annie” and the director’s desire to use a rescue dog to reflect the theme of the show, in which Annie is brought to stay with billionaire Oliver Warbucks during Christmas. He later adopts the girl and rescues her from her life in the orphanage.

MiniMe aced the show’s auditions. Despite the fact that the pup is rarely around kids, she was comfortable around them for the beginning, and unfazed by all the noises involved in a play rehearsal.

“She loves everybody and she really loves little girls,” Sachs said.

With the majority of Sandy’s scenes in the first act of the show, the dog can rest backstage in his travel crate until he returns in the final scene when Annie unwraps her Christmas gift from Warbucks and finds it is the dog.

“She’s a fabulous dog; she’s the best dog I ever had,” Sachs said.

What: Actorsingers present “Annie”

When: tomorrow at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Where: Edmund Keefe auditorium, 117 Elm St., Nashua, N.H.

How: $20 for adults; $18 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased online at actorsingers.org, calling 603-320-1870, or at the theater 1 hour before each show. Tickets are free for veterans. Families of active-duty service members are eligible for two free tickets. Proper ID is required. These tickets are available only at the theater one hour before the show.