St. Jude 4th-grader on national tour of ‘Annie’
While some people have to wait a lifetime for their dreams to come true, Adia Dant’s wait wasn’t quite that long.
The 9-year-old has been cast as Annie’s understudy and Orphan Pepper in Troika Entertainment’s yearlong national tour of "Annie."
Upon learning that she had secured the role, she was like, "Wow! Is this really true?" Adia said Friday via a telephone interview from New York. "It was overwhelming."
Adia, daughter of Chris and Kim Dant, has been in New York since mid-August rehearsing for the production, which opens Friday in Detroit. The show comes to the Murat in Indianapolis from Feb. 24 though March 1, and she will play the role of Annie for at least one night, a stipulation that the Dants worked out in the contract.
"I can’t wait to see all my friends," she said. "They are all coming. I want them to see that I have been working hard and that everything is going great.
"It’s just awesome that I get to sing, dance and act. I love doing this, and I love my parents for helping me get involved in this. A big thanks goes to Dad and Mom."
While Chris, who owns Dant Insurance, has remained home to run his business, Kim is in New York with Adia. While in the Big Apple they stayed at the apartment of Adia’s acting coach, Walker Clark. Since being on the road and in Utica for the past two weeks for tech rehearsals, they have stayed at hotels provided by Troika.
Adia was recently hand-picked by "Annie" director Martin Charnin to sing "Tomorrow" in front of 18,000 people at Millennium Park in Chicago. "I was backstage and couldn’t see the crowd, so I didn’t think there were many people there. I had butterflies at first, but they went away."
"She has a grueling schedule," Mrs. Dant said. "She’s busy from noon to 11:30 p.m. every day. But she has the drive and passion. This is her world."
While Adia’s days are lengthy, they are only a couple of hours longer than what they would be if she was home, noted Mrs. Dant. Adia would be in school seven hours here and then be off to take singing, acting and dancing lessons in the evenings. And there were also her performances with Triple Threat, which appeared at Indianapolis Indians and Indiana Ice games and sang the national anthem at an Indiana Pacers game.
As far as her schooling goes, she and the other six girls cast as orphans spend their school time with teacher Jessica Balun, who will be on the tour with them.
Technically a fourth-grader at St. Jude Catholic School, Adia said her favorite subjects are still math and English, but she is beginning to discover the joy of reading. "I’m learning so much, but it’s very different from normal school. I work more independently here."
Dant remains employed by KBA, a third-party administrator that allows her to work remotely. The company bought her a computer and has made the transition almost seamless.
"We are both adapting well. There is a lot of hustle and bustle in New York City. Anything goes there; everything is accepted. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Adia has become great friends with the other girls in the show. She still has time to be a 9-year-old girl," Dant said in response to those who may believe that a national tour is no place for such a young girl. "Adia went to the zoo last week, and she’s picking up new and exciting hobbies, including knitting."
A little of that homesickness was eased when she recently had dinner with fellow Triple Threat performer Brynn Elliott (Kenzie Adolay is also in the group) in New York. "It was really neat. My mom really surprised me."
Triple Threat is from Musicality Arts, which offers training in voice, musical theater, piano and violin. When Lynne Mlott, who owns the company, heard Adia’s voice, she was impressed and recognized the potential. "Lynne is like my second mom," said Adia. "We both cried before I left for New York."
Adia is already an accomplished performer, having won a vocal talent contest at the Marion County Fair and placing second at the Indiana State Fair in August. She performed in "EastSide Story" – a parody of "WestSide" story – in the Irvington area in May and was cast ia Tinkerbell in "Peter Pan Jr." at Roncalli in June. She competed in nine dance numbers at the Showstoppers Dance Nationals in Galveston, Texas, under the direction of Lynn Herrick, director of The Dance Refinery, and Julie Bandy, her eight-year dance teacher.
While Adia has no idea what the future holds for her, she certainly plans to sing with Brynn and Kenzie again if she doesn’t land a role in another big show when this one ends next September.