They’ve been on the road for six months. That’s a long time, especially when you’re only 11 or 12 years old.
On Tuesday, they’ll get to come home again. For two whole days.
Jacqueline Galvano and Tori Bates are touring the country in “Annie,” the venerable musical based on the even more venerable comic strip. Tori has the title role. Jacqueline, the daughter of state Sen. Bill Galvano, plays July. She’s also the understudy for the role of “Annie.” The tour comes to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Tuesday and Wednesday.
After that, Jacqueline and Tori and the rest of the cast head out on the road again for two more months.
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Touring with a musical, especially in a non-union show like this one, is notoriously grueling. But Jacqueline said she’s pretty much having the time of her life.
“I’m loving it,” 12-year-old Jacqueline said. “We get to see new places and do new things and I get to tour with all my best friends.”
The tour includes some big cities and some small towns. Jacqueline was calling from Statesboro, Ga., but the tour had passed through Chicago and Miami. The young cast got to explore those cities a little bit because the tour stayed in town for more than a day or two. In other cities, she said, the cast pretty much rolls into town, does the show and moves on.
I’m loving it. We get to see new places and do new things and I get to tour with all my best friends.
A teacher accompanies the cast, but Jacqueline and Tori are both completing their school work online while they’re on tour. Jacqueline’s mother or her 21-year-old brother Mike are on tour with her most of the time.
She didn’t know any of the other kids in the cast before, she said, but they all consider themselves BFFs now. She and Tori didn’t even know each other, even though they live just a few miles apart and they’re both active in the area theater scene.
“I met her at auditions in New York City,” Jacqueline said of Tori. “We’re happy that we live close to each other, because after the tour we get to hang out.”
Both Jacqueline and Tori came into the world decades after “Annie,” which premiered on Broadway in 1977 and became one of the biggest hits of the era.
Even though they’re very young, they both have some solid performing credits. Tori was one of the stars of “Josephine” at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota. She played the young Josephine Baker, a significant role in the musical drama, and her performance bowled over a lot of people in the audience. Her performance was every bit as polished and confident as those of the experienced professionals in the show.
Jacqueline has worked with Manatee Players on several shows. Among her biggest and most impressive turns came as Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” She also performed in “Annie Jr.” for a Manatee Players camp production.
“She’s pretty much been a star for us every time she walked on our stage,” said Rick Kerby, Manatee Players’ producing artistic director.
It’s a very optimistic show. She’s always looking at tomorrow. I think any song can pull any audience in.
As for this production of “Annie,” Jacqueline said it’s something all ages can enjoy.
“It’s a very optimistic show,” she said. “She’s always looking at tomorrow. I think any song can pull any audience in.”
The tour ends in a couple of months, and Jacqueline said she’s looking forward to spending the summer living like a typical 12-year-old girl, relaxing and hanging with her friends, including Tori. She’ll no doubt be back on stage with Manatee Players before long.
Kerby said one of the biggest rewards of his job is seeing young people get their start at Manatee Players and then move on to bigger things.
“My dream is that we will groom and prepare people for careers, if that’s what they want to do,” he said.
That’s happened several times, and Kerby’s dream may come true again through Jacqueline. Touring shows are known for being exceptionally hard work, and Jacqueline and her young cast mates have to keep up with their academic work while they’re touring. But six months of that grind hasn’t dampened Jacqueline’s enthusiasm for a career in theater. She’s 12, but she knows she wants to be in musical theater for the rest of her life.
“Definitely,” she said. “I love touring.”