Orphans take the stage in ‘Annie’

Gulia Fissel playing Annie sings ‘Tomorrow’ to Sandy the dog

Gilroy – A rag-tag group of girls gathered, some lying on cots and some on the floor, with unkempt hair and patches on their dresses. But one youngster, with a pink dress and bright red hair, stood out from the rest. The star of the show, Julia Fissel of Gilroy, sings her heart out in the role of a little orphan looking for a home at this summer’s production of “Annie, Jr.”

The show is the first collaboration of Gilroy Community Services and Rainbow Children’s Theatre, and the cast has been rehearsing all week to work out the kinks in the show before tonight’s opening performance.

Though it is the first time Rainbow Children’s Theatre is working with South County kids, ages 5 to 18 and mostly female given the large number of girl orphans required for the script, the family that runs the production program are no strangers to the stage.

Ron and Jeannette Miller have been involved in theater for 12 years, since their oldest daughter, Ashley, now 19, wanted to take to the stage.

After the family moved from Milpitas to Hollister, the parents started their own production company so their three daughters, Ashley, Aubrey, 15, and Ariel, 14, could stay active in theater close to home.

They’ve put on shows in Hollister before and chose “Annie, Jr.” as their Gilroy debut.

“It’s a great play and I don’t think its been done up here for a while,” Ron said.

Ron is the producer for the show and Jeannette works as the casting director. The trio of girls, with their blond-highlighted hair, tan complexions and bright greenish-blue eyes look like they belong on stage, but more and more they are working behind the scenes as well as in the spotlight.

Ashley is working sound for the show, Ariel helped with choreography and Aubrey has taken on the role of director. And though it might be daunting for some teenagers to keep control of a cast with more than 40 children, Aubrey knows how to take charge.

“The kids are great,” said Aubrey of the group she has been working with in rehearsals since April. “It’s been a blast.”

“If they ask how old I am, I say I am old enough,” she said.

Parents and kids show her the same respect they show her mother and father on the set.

“I like directing, seeing what happens at the end of the show,” Aubrey said.

For Ron, working with kids is about more than what happens on stage.

“The greatest thing about working with kids in theater is their growth,” Ron said. “You see that in them, in their school work and with their peers.”

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