By: Sue Stevens Durbec, arts editor
Silent film star W. C. Fields famously advised actors never to share a stage with children or animals. It’s advice Equity Actor Neil Mowles apparently choose not to heed.
Mowles plays Oliver Warbucks in Theatre Arlington’s current production, “Annie.” Which means he shares the stage with seven adorable little girls and one equally adorable, scene-stealing dog.
The show is earning rave reviews and Mowles is quick to heap a sleigh full of praises on director Melanie Mason.
“When you're working with material that can be and has been delivered in a rather saccharin manner, I think it's important to find the true heart in the story. Melanie was great in helping us find it,” Mowles said.
The children, some with impressive theater credentials, deliver with acting, singing and dancing skills that belie their tender years.Zu, the canine Sandy, is stealing hearts in her acting debut. She was adopted from Arlington Animal Services in June. Her theater career got a bit of a jump-start, because her adopted parents are Mason and her husband, UT Arlington Theatre Arts Professor Dennis Maher. Maher is portraying FDR in the show, so it is truly a family affair.
Zu seems to be enjoying her time in the spotlight. But that could have something to do with the young cast members.
“She and Sarah, the girl playing Annie, have become fast friends,” Mason said.
In addition to the girls and the dog, Mowles is sharing the stage “with my amazingly talented niece, Jenny Thurman.’
He said when the original movie version of "Annie" came out, Thurman was just a little younger than the title character.
“I remember her being fixated with the movie,” Mowles said. “But I think even then she recognized that the role that would be the best to sink her teeth into was Miss Hannigan.”
“Annie” runs through December 16, but many shows are sold out. To check on tickets availability, visit www.theatrearlington.org