Meghan Cassiday has been performing in Brown County High School musicals since she was in third grade.

On April 7, the high school junior will take center stage in her first lead role, portraying Annie, the optimistic orphan who manages to find the bright side of life during the Great Depression.

“She’s a spunky little girl that, most of the time, doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and wants everyone to be happy and look forward to the next day,” Cassiday said.

“I’ve been working my butt off for this part. … It made me really happy that I got the role.”

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“Annie” will run for two weekends in April. It features a cast of 40 public school and homeschool students from fifth to 12th grade, which is smaller than previous musical cast sizes, said Laurie Godfrey, director of the high school’s theater department.

But a smaller cast doesn’t mean the production is any easier to manage.

“It feels the exact same way,” Godfrey said. “There are two completely different choruses in this show. You have one group playing the orphans, and then you have the group playing all of the adult parts.”

The cast and crew were busy rehearsing the week of March 29 with less than two weeks before the premiere.

“We’re definitely yanking the last bits together and trying to make everything work out the way we want to like usual. This is the most high-stress point right now,” Godfrey said.

Most of the leads have never played a lead character before, except for senior Noah Guinn in the role of Mr. Warbucks, the billionaire businessman who opens his home to orphan Annie and offers to help her find her parents.

“She just happens to be in the right place at the right time when Grace, Mr. Warbucks’ secretary, comes to select one orphan to stay with them for two weeks,” Godfrey said.

Annie believes her parents dropped her off as an infant but meant to come back to get her. She wears a broken locket they gave her when they left her at the orphanage.

At first, Guinn wasn’t sure he wanted to portray Warbucks because he was busy with show choir, studying and getting ready to go to college this fall at Taylor University.

“But then I started to look at the script and see the kind of family I was making at the first rehearsals. I just wanted to stick with it because I didn’t (want to) let those people down,” he said.

This is his sixth time performing in a high school production.

He describes his character as gruff, which is not at all like Guinn, so it’s a challenge to portray him. “I think of how Louis Armstrong sings, but I take his singing voice and I apply it to how Warbucks would live his life,” he said.

This is the first time, to Godfrey’s knowledge, that the high school has done a production of “Annie.”

Godfrey said she picked “Annie” this year because Nathan Sudduth, the high school band director, and Kristi Billings, the choir director, both were excited about the idea of bringing it to the auditorium stage. She said she knew the kids would love it, too.

“You can feel the love and compassion everybody is sharing, but you can also feel the work that they’ve put into it. It’s just something you have to be here to feel,” Guinn said.

“It’s really inspiring to see Annie come from where she came, and how she’s now in a mansion and still has that kind and loving heart,” Guinn said.

“You can learn a lot from Annie — not just the girl, but the whole show.”

If you go

What: Brown County High School theater production of “Annie”

When: April 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 and 15. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows start at 7 p.m. and the Sunday show starts at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $6 for students, $7 for adults at the door.

Cast list

Annie: Meghan Cassiday
Warbucks: Noah Guinn
Understudy: Ben Dwyer
Grace Farrell: Adelyn Raush
Understudy: Rachel Bessire
Miss Hannigan: Evelyn Pool
Understudy: Tori Akles
Rooster: Ethan Hallock
Understudy: Tyler Krug
Lilly St. Regis: Allison Drew
Bundles McKloskey: Tyler Krug
Apple seller: Cole Zeigler
Dog catcher: Chris Miller
Lt. Ward: Noah Hostetler
Eddie: Chris Miller
Sophie: Kassidy Cecil
Cop No. 2: C. W. Hostetler
Boys in Crossover NYC: Nathan Lewis, Cole Zeigler
Usherette: Ava Roush
Star-to-Be: Laura Sheckell
Bert Healy: Brian Galm
Boylin Sisters
Ronnie: Rachel Bessire
Bonnie: Laura Sheckell
Connie: Tori Akles
Fred McCracken and Dummy Wacky: Tyler Krug
Special effects man: C.W. Hostetler
Drake: Jarrod Landry
Mrs. Pugh: Jade Crouse
Mrs. Greer: Rachel Bessire
Cecille: Grace Richards
Annette: Jessica Taylor
Man servants: Caleb Brock, Noah Hostetler, Cole Zeigler, Nathan Lewis, Clark Owen
FDR: Jacob Landry
Personal assistant to the president Howe: Clark Owen
Ickes: Noah Hostetler
Morgenthau: Caleb Brock
Hull: Ben Dwyer
Perkins: Tori Akles
Judge Brandeis: Brian Galm
Molly: Lela Leslie
Pepper: Madison Cook
Duffy: Maya Rockhold
July: Lilee DeLoach
Tessie: Ariyanna Phillips
Kate: Hailey Lindsey
Additional orphans: Gracelyn Patton, Isabella Phillips, Zara Spires
Adult chorus: Tori Akles, Rachel Bessire, Caleb Brock, Kassidy Cecil, Jade Crouse, Ben Dwyer, Kristina Fowler, C.W. Hostetler, Noah Hostetler, Tyler Krug, Jarrod Landry, Virginia Lecklider, Nathan Lewis, Christopher Miller, Clark Owen, Samy Perkins, Ava Roush, Grace Richardson, Jessica Taylor, Cole Zeigler
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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.