Arts & Entertainment

Very special "Annie, Jr." Coming June 29-July 1 at Rahway High School

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Meela Sashi (left) as Annie and Joyce Cargle as the Apple Seller rehearse for "Annie Jr.," this year's production by the CAU Community Players, a troupe of actors with and without disabilities.
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The CAU Community Players will be staging a very special production of "Annie, Jr." at the Rahway High School Center for Performing Arts on Friday, June 29, and Saturday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 1, at 2 p.m.

The CAU Community Players is a troupe of actors both with and without developmental disabilities. Formed in 2012, the troupe empowers members with disabilities to engage in the pleasures of acting, singing and dancing with people from the wider community and to be judged for their talents rather than disabilities. The productions also allow individuals without disabilities to interact with those with disabilities and build bonds.

CAU, or Community Access Unlimited, is a statewide nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, providing support in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.

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The CAU Community Players' annual three-day production draws hundreds of attendees. The troupe each year selects a play that is representative of CAU's message of inclusion, acceptance and believing in oneself, as well as everyone's worth regardless of disability. They also select a play that allows for a large cast, as no one is turned away from performing.

This year's production, "Annie, Jr," is based on the comic strip and adapted from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical. With equal measures of pluck and positivity, little orphan Annie charms everyone's hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City.

Annie is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of an orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. She eventually foils Miss Hannigan's evil machinations and finds a new home and family in billionaire Daddy Warbucks and a lovable dog named Sandy.

"The main song, 'The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow,' shows that Annie has the optimism that even if things don't look good, she'll make it work," said Marguerite Modero, the troupe's director. "Our members have the same tenacity and optimism to keep trying until they work things out. And to me, CAU is like Daddy Warbucks, taking care of our members to make sure their lives are bettered."

Meela Sashi, 10, of Elizabeth is playing Annie within a cast of approximately 100, about two-thirds of whom are members of CAU with one third joining from the wider community both within and beyond Union County.

Tickets are available online by visiting https://rwhs.booktix.com/. The cost is $12.00. Tickets also are available at the door the day of the performance.

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