A family that works and plays together

By Greg Gelpi

"Annie" may be the story of an orphan, but behind the scenes it's the story of a family spending time together.

For the second time, Mary Ramsaier, her mother, Alexandra Tagalos, and her three children Mary 7; Gaby, 13; and Ali, 17, will be participating in a production together.

"I love being with my children, and this is one way of doing it," Mary Ramsaier, 46, the head costumer for the Clayton County Honor Musical production of "Annie," said.

The family performed together, two years ago for a summer theater production of "Fiddler on the Roof," but this will be the family's first honor musical.

"They'd rather be on stage," she said. "I'd rather be behind. They're hams."

Gaby will play "Annie," Mary will be "Molly" and Ali will play the part of "Ms. Hannigan."

"I've always wanted to do it," Ali said. "I used to watch ?The Wizard of Oz'. I always wanted to be like Judy Garland."

The big sister off the stage, she said she enjoys bossing her little sisters around on stage as "Ms. Hannigan".

"It's good to boss them around because I can do it on stage," Ali said. "It's my job."

The children's grandmother also joined in, helping during the costume making. Tagalos, 68, designed the servants outfits and donated some of the fabrics for the costumes.

The three Ramsaier children will perform in the Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 productions of the show.

The Clayton County Honor Musical is a collaboration of teachers, staff and students from throughout the county, Director Susan Simich said. About 360 students from second to 12th grades auditioned for the honor musical. The production staff chose about 130 students following the audition, which included a monologue and a song.

"We wanted to do something that involved all fine arts programs in the county," Simich said. "It's open to anybody to audition, but we're pretty strict on the quality."

Simich is a drama teacher at Lovejoy High School and has been involved with the honor musical since it began about eight or nine years ago.

"It has really grown over time," she said, estimating that about 4,000 to 5,000 will attend the showings.

The cost of the performance is $5 in advance and $7 at the door.

"The money from the tickets will fund next year's show," Simich said. "It's worth it for students to experience a more professional production."