By Cary Shuman
Heather Buccini had the honor of singing the National Anthem at Senior Night for the newly crowned state champion Winthrop High boys basketball team.
Buccini, a talented, eight-year-old second grader at the Gorman/Fort Banks School, has appeared on stage in theatrical productions and dance recitals and performed at birthday parties at Trudy Macero’s Winthrop School of Performing Arts.
But now she’s preparing for her biggest role yet: the lead in the Neverland Theatre Company’s production of “Annie.” Buccini will take the stage for three performances as Annie at the Temple B’nai Abraham Theater in Beverly. Ten-year-old Zehava Younger will appear as Annie in three other shows.
Buccini has appeared before in “Annie,” having played the role of Tessie in a Seaside Productions play at the Chevalier Theater in Medford.
She earned the “promotion” to the major part of Annie after shining in an audition where she sang a song and recited lines from the script. Buccini is winding down twice-a-week rehearsals and will make her debut on April 2.
The buzz is that Heather is nailing her part like an up and coming Andrea McArdle, the original Annie on Broadway. Her family has sold a Neverland Theatre record 100-plus tickets, all but insuring that there will be sellout crowds at each show.
Heather will sing six songs in the play including such classics as “Tomorrow” and “It’s a Hard Knocks Life.” She has taken voice training under the direction of Cassandra Marsh at the Winthrop School for Performing Arts. Buccini is in her fifth year as a student at Trudy Macero’s famed school.
“It feels great to be doing the big part of Annie,” said Heather during a break in rehearsals Monday night at the Clarke School in Danvers. “I’ve seen the movie many times and the play at the Wang Center in Boston. It’s my favorite show.”
Heather, who also plays basketball, enjoys performing in plays and seems to have the confidence and poise that actors need to excel.
“I think it’s a great experience to get up on the stage and show the people what I can do,” said Heather. “It’s been fun working with all the other cast members. I’ve been telling them what a great place Winthrop is to live.”
Heather is a true triple threat in theater: she’s taken singing, acting, and dancing classes. She attended a drama camp at the Reagle Players Theater in the Waltham.
Heather has received great support in her budding career from her mother, Jill, who drives her to rehearsals and auditions. “My mother takes me to rehearsals and auditions and I appreciate it,” said Heather, who has a brother, Ryan, a football, hockey, and baseball player.
At Neverland, Heather is working with founder and producer/director Andy Diskes, 47, a graduate of UMass/Amherst who has built the theater company into one of the most active in the region. “He’s [Diskes) nice and he gets serious when he has to,” said Heather.
Diskes says Heather has been an impressive addition to the Neverland family.
“Heather has remarkable talent – I don’t know many children that at the age of eight could play the role of Annie,” said Diskes. “So I think she has a special talent and she’s just going to keep getting better and better. She works hard and is very respectful which is just as important as talent. She has nice parental support. And she’s perfect for this part: it’s the whole package when you cast someone – you have to sing well, act well, and have the energy.”
Heather Buccini will be performing in the role of Annie on April 2, 5, and 10 in Beverly. For more information, visit www.neverlandtheatre.com