A firefighter paramedic for the last 212 years in Juneau, Paul Kelly's singing experience has been limited to random outbursts while he's driving down the road in his Jeep.
Nevertheless, Kelly, 39, will play the role of billionaire Daddy Warbucks in Northern Light Junior Theatre's upcoming production of "Annie." The play shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 12-13 and 19-20, at Northern Light United Church. The Nov. 12 show will be interpreted for the deaf. A special sing-along show will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students (K-12), and available at Hearthside Books. Playgoers are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for the Glory Hole.
"It's been quite a jump," Kelly said. "But the kids have been great. (Director J.) Althea hasn't yanked me off the set yet, or fired me. She's been really good and supportive. To be almost 40 years old, and have to do this and go through some of life's embarrassments has been a good experience. I was kind of shy when I was kid. These kids get out there, and some of these girls hit the high notes like you wouldn't believe."
The Kellys moved to Juneau 212 years ago from West Virginia. Paul's daughter, Sierra, is a Northern Light regular, and plays the role of Lt. Ward and Franklin D. Roosevelt Cabinet official Frances Perkins in "Annie."
Sierra came up with the idea last spring for her father to play Warbucks. He politely tried to decline, but was coerced to sing "Happy Birthday" one day during Sierra's audition. The role of Warbucks was immediately his.
"Family and co-workers were telling me, 'You'd make a great Daddy Warbucks,' but I said no," Kelly said. "I told Althea, unless I'm doing paramedicine, I cannot get up there in front of a whole lot of people. You have to be kidding me. But it's nice to be in this with my daughter, and to see how much work she puts into plays."
Kelly has memorized his lines with help from his family, and he's based his Warbucks on his own experiences. Like Annie, he was adopted.
"Having kids myself and being adopted was helpful," Kelly said. "But I'm not a billionaire. So the having the money part was kind of weird."
Kelly's mother is flying in from New York to see the play. She took him to see the original Broadway production of "Annie" when he was a boy. His fellow firefighters will also be in attendance.
"I'm catching flak left and right from this," he said. "We've got 33 people on the paid staff, and we're winding up with 38 wanting to go."
Emily Smith, recently seen as the fierce, harsh North Wind in Northern Light's "The Night the Forest Cried," stars as Annie.
"She was a small role (in 'The Night') but a really prominent role for those five minutes, and now she couldn't be more opposite," Althea said. "Instead of this cold, cruel character, she's the most optimistic, kindest person alive."
Althea was the music director for "Annie" when Juneau-Douglas High School presented the story in the mid-1990s. As is always the case with Northern Light Junior Theatre plays, she tries to tie the play's stories in with study sessions.
This time, University of Alaska Southeast history professors Robin Walz and David Noon visited the actors to talk about Hooverville and the Great Depression. Jetta Whittaker of The Glory Hole discussed homelessness, and Matt Felix of the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence visited to talk about alcoholism.
"Ms. Hannigan is drunk, and she's also so funny," Althea said. "One night it occurred to me, 'What message is it that we're going to put out to the community? If you want people to like you, it's fun to be drunk?"
"They're very intelligent young people and they want to know about things," she said. "The kids knew all about The Glory Hole. Many of them had been there to be of service and to help."
Veteran Northern Light playgoers may notice the larger stage. The Junior Theatre received a grant from Juneau Parks and Recreation to build a large floor-level addition to the front of the stage. It stretches the width of the church and was built by the company's support group of parents. They'll dismantle and store it once the play has ended.
(in order of appearance)
Molly - Emily Winters; Jessie - Amanda Mosher; Pepper - Alicia Arehart; Annie - Emily Smith; Duffy - Haley Nelson; Kate - Maya Rieselbach; Piper - Miranda Barril; Tessie - Zoey Wilson; Judy - Cheyenne Kennedy; Kay - Emma Landvatter; July - Callie Conerton; Millie - Lily Burger; Miss Hannigan - Sonne Kyle-Olsen; Mr. Bundles - K.C. Kent; Alice The Apple Seller - Shannon Smith; Sandy The Dog - Julia Smith; Dog Catcher - John Reid; Lt. Ward - Siara Kelly; Artie - Abby Bowman; Peggy - Aurora Austin; Fred - Abby Hemenway; Sophie The Kettle - Taylor Vidic; Ira - Galen Wright; Hooverville Residents - Joshua Kinsolving, Veronica Narvaez, Cyd Boyer, Zoey Wilson, Madison Truitt, Rachael Dahl, Charlotte Truitt, Katie Nelson, Allie Bricker, Chris Kent, Brenden Winters, Lorrie Wright, Elyssa Kelley, KC Kent, Marie Petersen, Rhyan Holmes, Karen Bonnett-Petersen, Joann Rieselbach, RuthAnn Bowman, Lisa McDowell, Tinaya Harris, Marina McDowell, Chandelle Nelson, Kelsey Brink; Grace Farrell - Lael Rogers; Drake - Katie Nelson; Mrs. Greer - Chandelle Nelson; Mrs. Pugh - Allie Bricker; Cecille - Maya Rieselbach; Annette - Callie Conerton; Servants - Abby Hemenway, Marina McDowell, Elyssa Kelley, Rhyan Holmes, Emma Landvatter, Shannon Smith, Galen Wright, Taylor Vidic, Julia Smith, Tinaya Harris, K.C. Kent, Zoey Wilson, Madison Truitt; Oliver Warbucks - Paul Kelly; Star To Be - Taylor Vidic; New Yorkers - Joshua Kinsolving, Veronica Narvaez, Cyd Boyer, Zoey Wilson, Madison Truitt, Rachael Dahl, Charlotte Truitt, Katie Nelson, Allie Bricker, Chris Kent, Brenden Winters, Lorrie Wright, Elyssa Kelley, KC Kent, Marie Petersen, Rhyan Holmes, Karen Bonnett-Petersen, Joann Rieselbach, RuthAnn Bowman, Lisa McDowell, Tinaya Harris, Marina McDowell, Chandelle Nelson, Kelsey Brink, Galen Wright, K.C. Kent, Shannon Smith, Julia Smith, John Reid, Siara Kelly, Abby Bowman, Aurora Austin, Abby Hemenway; Usherette - Amanda Mosher; Rooster Hannigan - Shane Prentice-Walz; Lily St. Regis - Cydney Norberg; Bert Healy - Veronica Narvaez; Sound Effects Man - Rhyan Holmes; Fred McCracken - Zoey Wilson; Jimmy Johnson - Cheyenne Kennedy; Ronnie Boylen - Rachael Dahl; Bonnie Boylen - Taylor Vidic; Connie Boylen - Haley Nelson; Harold Ickes - Rachael Dahl; Frances Perkins - Siara Kelly; Cordell Hull - Alicia Arehart; Henry Morgenthau - Katie Nelson; President Roosevelt - Veronica Narvaez; Louis Howe - Aurora Austin; Marine Guard - Miranda Barril; Justice Brandeis - Cheyenne Kennedy; Announcer voices - Ben Brown, Greg McLaughlin.