Double the curls in CMT’s ‘Annie’


For the holiday season, what’s better than one red-and-curly haired, endlessly optimistic little girl named Annie?

Try Annie times two.

Young performers Elisabeth “Ellie” Burbidge and Samantha Shaheen-Smith share the title role in the new Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “Annie,” directed by Karan Johnson, which opens Friday, Dec. 1. The two Annies alternate performances. They’re both outrageously excited to get to belt out such songs as “Tomorrow” and “Maybe,” of course. Here’s a rundown on each Annie:


One of two: Samantha Shaheen-Smith plays the title role in “Annie.” Photo / Children’s Musical Theaterworks


Age: 10

School: Manchester GATE.


Prior CMT Productions: “Willy Wonka Jr.” (Michelle TeeVee), “Annie” (Orphan), “Peter Pan” (Mr. Smee), “The Wizard of Oz” (Munchkin Coroner), “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (Hidden Child ensemble), “The Lion King Jr.” (Timon).

First memory of Annie: “I first remember hearing the music from ‘Annie’ when I was 6 and choosing a song for my first audition with CMT. ‘Tomorrow’ was the song I chose to sing for that audition and have been an ‘Annie’ fan ever since.

Does she ever get “Tomorrow” stuck in her head? Yes. “It absolutely gets stuck in my head! But, I don’t try to get rid of it because I have wanted to be Annie for such a long time. When ‘Tomorrow’ starts to play in my head I feel happy, then I remember that I actually get to BE Annie and I am so excited.

What it’s like to work with Nick, the dog playing Sandy: “I love animals, so getting to hang out with a dog at rehearsal is great. Nick, is a seasoned stage actor and has played the part of Sandy many times so she knows what she is doing. She is the most well-mannered dog and very well trained. Sometimes having so many children around sidetracks her (lots of love directed toward her when she is at rehearsals), but not for long and she is soon back in character.”

If she were as rich as Daddy Warbucks, what would she buy first? “I would first hire a contractor to do the repairs they say need to be done at the theater so we can keep performing there, or maybe build a new theater for CMT so they never have to worry about not having a place to do the shows!”

Best thing about being Annie: “Getting to work with all these great people at CMT. There is so much talent and experience to learn from. I have learned so much from Ellie, the other Annie. She has a great voice and I am honored to share the role with her. Also, I get to sing all the songs I have wanted to sing for years. I also really like having so many lines. It is “Annie”, and really the best thing cannot even be said in words, it’s more a feeling. Theater kids will know what I mean: the best thing about being Annie, is BEING Annie!



Elisabeth “Ellie” Burbidge, as Annie, backstage at a performance. Photo / Children’s Musical Theaterworks

Age: 13

School: Reyburn Intermediate.

Prior CMT Productions: “Mary Poppins” (Fanny) and “High School Musical” (Kelsie).

First memory of Annie: Seeing the old movie and loving the music.

Does she ever get “Tomorrow” stuck in her head? No. “Oddly enough, the song I get stuck in my head is ‘Little Girls,’ and I’m not even in that number!”

What it’s like to work with Nick, the dog playing Sandy: “Fun, but worrisome. I don’t know if she’s going to run offstage or totally ignore me. In practice she just lays there!”

If she were as rich as Daddy Warbucks, what would she buy first? “A trip to Italy! I want to see Venice and Rome!”

Best thing about being Annie: “Having my first lead role! It’s super fun and exciting but challenging at the same time. And I love singing “Maybe.”

Show info

“Annie,” opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St. Runs through Sunday, Dec. 10. Tickets are $14-$22 general, $10 children 12 and under.

Related story

Update: CMT will be back in Memorial Auditorium in 2018

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Roger Christensen

    With ANNIE opening after the skirmish over the Memorial Auditorium it’s fun to note that one of ANNIE’s characters is President Franklin Roosevelt who’s real life WPA built the Memorial Auditorium!


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