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A tale of two Annies at the Walnut Street Theatre

The coveted role is being performed by two actresses.
Jenna Seasholtz performs the role of "Annie" at the Walnut Street Theatre. | Mark Garvin
Jenna Seasholtz performs the role of "Annie" at the Walnut Street Theatre. Mark Garvin

The holidays are the perfect time to see a musical and the Broadway classic, “Annie,” which is now being performed at The Walnut Street Theatre, is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Through Jan. 7, audiences can tag along with the plucky orphan Annie on her mission to find her parents in 1930s New York City, which takes her from the orphanage to finding a new home with billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Amidst the many adventures, there are plenty of memorable song and dance numbers, with unforgettable tunes like “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street” and of course, the song of everyone’s childhood, “Tomorrow.”

Undoubtedly, it is the dream of many young girls to perform the role of Annie, especially on a stage as revered as The Walnut Street Theatre’s. For this production, two talented actors are sharing the lead role — Tahlia Ellie of Short Hills, NJ and Jenna Seasholtz of Coopersburg, PA.

Both girls were introduced to the world of musical theatre at a very young age.

“I saw Annie when I was three years old at my local high school,” says Seasholtz. “My babysitter was the lead role of Annie.  That is when I knew I wanted to be on the stage.”

By the age of seven, Seasholtz got the role of Gretl in “The Sound of Music” at her local high school and caught the musical theatre bug.

Ellie got her start performing in community theaters all the way back in kindergarten, “after begging her parents.”

“At the request of the director we were told to seek out an agent and have been performing professionally ever since,” she says.

She even performed the role of Tess in “Annie” by the age of seven in another production.

When it was announced that “Annie” was coming to the Walnut Street Theatre, Seasholtz started practicing right away.

“I have always wanted to be Annie.  This is my dream role and my dream coming true.  It’s hard to be the right age and the right height and the right everything [for this part],” she says.

With the demanding rehearsal and performance schedule, the two young actors somehow still find time to get their schoolwork done.

“I am currently being tutored as the last few weeks we have been in rehearsal six days a week,” says Ellie. “I spend my Mondays doing school work and getting tutored.”

Seasholtz is keeping up with school online.

“Next week I have to catch up with everything during the week since I am working all weekend long,” she says.

It certainly takes a lot of drive to accomplish so much at a young age. What inspires them?

For Ellie, it’s Sierra Boggess and Kristin Chenoweth.

“My first broadway show that I saw was ‘The Little Mermaid’ at four years old with Sierra Boggess,” she says. “I was in awe of her and told my parents that I could do that. I truly adore Kristin Chenoweth. There are so many amazing actors out there.”

Seasholtz also has a lot of admiration for all the working actors in the industry and understands the challenges of the career.

“Every working actor inspires me.  It is hard work to learn new shows while auditioning for the next one and always wondering what is next,” she says. “It can also be hard when you want a part and you do not get it.  So I think if that actor can do it, so can I.  And if that person can get that part, well, then so can I.”

As the song goes, “Tomorrow is only a day away,” and here’s to hoping that these two young stars inspire many children in the audience to pursue a life in the arts.

If you go:

“Annie”
Now through Jan. 7
Various times
Walnut Street Theatre
825 Walnut St.
walnutstreettheatre.org