The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023

Annie Jr. Brings Sunshine

What happens when you put two good things together? Broadway in Van Wert with 50 of our very own regional youth on our very own big stage is what happens. The Van Wert Civic Theater brings you Annie Jr. at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, January 21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 22. Our area youth have the opportunity to perform on the stage where national touring artists have entertained each of them. Now it is their turn to be the star in the spotlight.

This epic production, under the direction of Doug Grooms, is a one-hour version of the musical that has long claimed a piece of our hearts. Emily Foudy as Annie is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of an orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. Annie foils the evil schemes of Tess Vonderwell as Miss Hannigan, Katelyn Knepper as Lily St. Regis, and Dante’ Lippi as Rooster to begin her life in a new home and family with billionaire Oliver Warbucks and his personal secretary, Grace Farrell, portrayed by Evan Falk and Rachael Ryan.

The Van Wert Live Production Team works closely with the Van Wert Civic Theater in this rehearsal of Lion King Jr. in 2022. Photo submitted

This arts collaboration between Van Wert Live and The Van Wert Civic Theater is the result of looking at new ways to work together to drive organizational missions forward for the benefit of the community and culture. Last year’s production of Lion King Jr. was a roaring success and paved the way for continued partnering. Both organizations uphold missions that complement one another and have the same key ingredients to fulfill their purpose – a performance, a stage, and a deep desire to entertain an audience.

VWCT Director, Doug Grooms, shares a unique perspective of the valuable Van Wert arts collaboration.

“A much younger me, growing up in rural Ohio, craved opportunities to engage with others to create and perform. I found my niche in school-based classes and extracurricular activities. I knew that somewhere, though, there were big cities with big stages filled with orchestras and casts performing for appreciative audiences. These places, to my knowledge and experience, however, were mostly strange and inaccessible. A much older me knows different. Though the big stages in big cities continue to be far away from most of us, there are small towns and rural communities – Van Wert being one, where performing arts are valued and thrive both in and outside of the public schools. The Van Wert Civic Theatre, rich in tradition, knowledge, craft, and resources, has staged plays and musicals by and for the community for over sixty years. In the more recent years, this community theatre has cultivated a program to support young performers who are hungry to get on stage. Since being built, the big stage at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center has served the Van Wert community by giving our school students a state of the art venue in which to hone their craft. Additionally, the community-at-large has delighted and grown as Van Wert Live has brought us so many varied performers from all over the world. The fit could not be more perfect: Van Wert Civic Theatre and Van Wert Live share resources to support the mission of both and in doing so our youth who wonder about those far away big stages can find a safe and welcoming place right here where they can take on big challenges, be brave, grow, perform, and thrill.”

Tickets are available now at or through the VWLive Box Office (419.238.6722) from only $10. The VWCT and the Niswonger stage provide a door to opportunity for young artists and an entertaining adventure for our audience. The unique aspect of “live” entertainment is it only happens once. We hope you won’t miss this collaborative community theater performance and bet your bottom dollar that you will be glad you did.

POSTED: 01/17/23 at 1:38 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment