Last night's production was a little unusual in that it was performed by a troupe from the Penguin Project. The Penguin Project started in the Peoria, Illinois area and is theatre performed by children who are handicapped or have other special needs. The Peoria Troupe has spun off two additional troupes since then both in Illinois, one in the Bloomington/Normal area and this weekend in the Sycamore/Dekalb area.
I attended last night because my nephew who is a 4th grader was one of the artists in the production. The Penguin Project calls all their special needs performers artists. They pair each artist with a mentor, a student without disabilities who performs alongside the artists. Now if you think this would turn out like special ed students in a play with 1 on 1 aides you could not be farther from the truth. The mentors blend into the background and besides some limited physical assistance and a few line prompts were indistinguishable from the rest of the troupe.
Anyone familiar with Annie knows that the juiciest part of the show is not Annie, it's Miss Hannigan - the director of the orphanage. This version's Miss Hannigan was hands down the best I have ever seen and I say that meaning no disrespect for Carol Burnett. The girl who played her showed excellent comic bravada and a tremendous singing voice to boot. I could go and tell you which disability or special needs he and each other performer had, but the strength of their performances was what they could do and not what they could not.
Here is my nephew getting congratulated by his sister as his mentor watches over him.