The harvest in the arts is large this summer. Thankfully, the number of laborers is also large. Due to spring planning and planting of new ideas, there’s a lot happening in entertainment, especially in theater — and soon to come in church music outreach. The events are plentiful. Enjoy the feast!

Last performance today for ‘Annie’

Based on Harold Gray’s American comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” the musical “Annie” will be presented today at 2:30 p.m. by Theatre of Gadsden. This is the final performance. The venue is the Ritz Theatre at 310 Wall St. in Gadsden. It is directed by Molly Page and Kelly Page.

Audiences will follow the adventures of the spunky, red-haired street orphan Annie, her faithful dog, Sandy, and her benefactor, Daddy Warbucks, as she determines to make the best of her life against adversity.

The title role is played by Sarah Crow from Ashville. Jason Bozeman of Gadsden performs the part of Daddy Warbucks. Sandy the dog is from Alexandria.

Readers of the comic strip followed not only an exciting story but political commentary. The words and actions focused on organized labor, the New Deal and communism.

The strip, which premiered in 1924, became one of the most widely read comic series in the 20th century before it was discontinued in June 2010.

We will hear such familiar songs as “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street” and “Tomorrow,” the memorable song of optimism.

To check on ticket availability, call the TOG box office at 256-547-7469.

Theatre of Gadsden will celebrate 90 years

When Theatre of Gadsden’s next season begins in January, it will celebrate its 90th year of productions.

The theater’s history tells the true story of a young lady’s passion for theater, music and visual art and how it introduced Gadsden’s public to the larger world of the arts.

Nan Callan, who lived in Gadsden and graduated from the University of Alabama, landed a job working for McCall’s magazine in New York City and relished being an arts patron there, especially in theater. During the Depression, her father could no longer support her life in New York and called her to come home. Once back in Gadsden, she decided that the town should have a community theater. Gadsden’s first community theater was a result of her efforts.

A barn on Market Lane was the venue; it was on the site where the Etowah County Courthouse now stands. After the land was sold to the county and the theater was torn down, the organization moved to a tin-roofed building on Black Creek and named the theater Town Creek Playhouse. It was in operation until 1970, when the organization moved into the Ritz Theatre.

After a long life of enlarging the arts scene locally, Callan died in 2003. Mike Beecham, artistic director of productions at TOG, remembers her well. “She was my mentor,” he said.

Callan also opened Gadsden’s first art gallery and was the driving effort behind the Gadsden Concert Association. The Nan Callan Auditorium is located in Gadsden Convention Hall.

New music director at First Methodist

A native of Talladega, Christopher Henley is now serving as director of music and worship arts at First United Methodist Church of Anniston, where he oversees the church’s many- faceted music ministry.

He succeeds Kathy Murphy, who recently retired after 17 years as director of music ministry at the church.

During Henley’s four-and-a-half years thus far at FUMC, he founded The Noble Camerata, an auditioned choral ensemble that performs in the Anniston/Oxford area.

Henley received his Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance from The University of Alabama. He is currently in pursuit of the Master of Music in Organ Performance at Mercer University. Additionally, he serves as a grading assistant in the music theory department.

Active as a solo performer, the pianist and organist has performed across the United States. Notable venues include: Saint Thomas Church, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (New York), Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (Portland, Ore.), National City Christian Church (Washington, D.C.), First Plymouth Church (Lincoln, Neb.), Trinity Church (Boston, Mass.) and Fourth Presbyterian Church (Chicago, Ill.).

He has collaborated with the University Singers of The University of Alabama, the Jacksonville University A Cappella Choir, the Talladega College Choir and several other instrumental ensembles across Alabama.

Henley also serves as the assistant director of the Oxford Christian School Concert Choir.

The church’s Soli Deo Gloria concert series will continue, according to Henley, as well as Hometown Classics, where musicians from the church’s congregation perform. “We will also be hosting JSU concerts,” he said. The dates of these events will be announced later this summer.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at