No hard knocks for lucky star
A dream is coming true for young Waiheke actress Jean Fraser-Hoult.
She is appearing in a UK production of Annie at Auckland's Civic Theatre with a big cast of international television and stage names.
The 11-year-old Waiheke Primary School pupil is bubbling with excitement after beating off stiff competition to make her professional stage debut in the musical with stars like Sue Pollard, of Hi-de-Hi fame.
The rags to riches story of the orphan who decides to run away in search of her parents opened on June 13, after a three-week run in Wellington, and is on until July 6.
Jean plays Becky - one of 11 orphans living a hard-knock life in New York City's Municipal Orphanage.
And she's loving every minute of it.
"Everyone is really friendly. All the adult cast members are lovely and say ‘hi' to us," she says.
Jean has had to take time off school for rehearsals and performances.
"But that's OK as mum is a teacher so she makes me do my maths on the ferry."
The family has pitched in to get her to rehearsals all over Auckland, she says.
"Sometimes I stay at my nana's on the North Shore. Mum, dad and my older sister have also been taking me to where I need to be."
Two sets of orphans, three Annies and two dogs are rotated so they don't have to be on stage every night.
Jean made the cut to the last six girls for the role of Annie and is thrilled to be part of the musical. And she is learning new skills.
"I think dancing was my weakest point but I have really improved," she says.
It has also been exciting for her to meet the famous cast members from the UK who rehearsed separately before joining their local Wellington and Auckland cast members.
Among them are David McAlister (Dr Who, The Mousetrap), Frazer Hines (Emmerdale, Dr Who) and two stars of BBC sitcom 'Allo 'Allo - Sue Hodge and John D Collins.
Sue Pollard plays the fiendish, drunken orphanage supervisor Miss Hannigan.
"Just watching her perform is so funny," Jean says. "We have a scene where we get to scream and run around and she reacts so well to that."