A Star is Born

Local girl gets her moment in the spotlight at the 5th Avenue Theatre

By Dan Aznoff | Dec 07, 2018
Courtesy of: The 5th Avenue Theater Mill Creek’s own Sarah Bennett takes center stage during her rendition of “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” during the current production of the holiday classic “Annie” at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. The 12-year-old dedicated herself to complete school assignments through the first week of January so she could give the show her full attention. She was one of 11 young performers selected from the hundreds who auditioned to join the touring Broadway company for the five-week run.

Although she may not admit it, Chari Bennett has a place reserved on the mantle in her Mill Creek home for the Tony Award she expects her youngest daughter to bring home in the next 20 years.

Bennett has been involved in the school productions at Heatherwood Middle School for all five of her children. But it was the sight of her youngest daughter on the stage of the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle that made her cry.

“Our family has been involved in theater in one form or another for several years,” Bennett told The Beacon. “But, when I saw Sarah on the stage at the 5th Avenue, with a full orchestra, there was no way I could hold back the tears.”

Twelve-year-old Sarah Bennett has been making audiences smile as she leads the orphans in a rousing rendition of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” in the first act of the holiday classic “Annie.” The show is scheduled to run at the landmark Seattle playhouse through Sunday, Dec. 30.

“Sarah has been dedicated to ‘Annie’ since the day she asked if she could audition,” her mother recalled. “She has missed out on a lot of activities. Sarah finished three lessons every day for weeks to get ahead of her school work so she could commit herself completely to the show.”

Bennett said her daughter has her calendar cleared through Jan. 7 of next year.

Sarah can still recall the persuasive argument she used to convince her mother to allow her to audition. But that was not what scared the young thespian.

“We had been to two shows at the 5th Avenue,” Sarah said. “But I never realized how big the theater was until I stood on the stage and looked out toward the audience.”

She admitted being in awe of the other performers who had appeared on the hardwoods of the 5th Avenue. The most difficult part of the audition process for Sarah was sitting in a tiny room with eight other girls listening to other people try out for the same role.

The auditions were tough on her mother as well. The process included six callbacks over the course of four months as hundreds of young hopefuls were “whittled down” (in her words) to the final 11 orphans plus the two girls who rotate in the title role.

Like many of the cast members, Sarah is home schooled.

“We never had to worry about the academics,” Bennett told The Beacon.  “Sarah has always been organized and disciplined. She completed three lessons every day for weeks so she could clear her calendar for the show.”

The stage mom has teamed up with mothers of other performers from Everett, Bothell and Woodinville to transport the young cast members to the daily rehearsals in downtown Seattle.

The touring company production of the Broadway revival is young Miss Bennett’s fourth appearance in front of an audience that was not exclusively members of her extended family. Sarah made her debut four years ago as a sheep in a community theater production of ”Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” She also appeared in the Heatherwood Middle School production of “Shrek.”

The highlight of Sarah’s young career was last spring when she stole the show with her Jamaican accent as Sebastian the Crab in the middle school version of “Little Mermaid.” Bennett said it was the directors of the middle school show who encouraged her daughter to audition for “Annie.”

Even playtime in the Bennett home has transformed into an impromptu rehearsal. Sarah and her brother Sam converse in various dialects and accents around the house as they go through their day.

Sarah is the latest member of her family to enjoy the spotlight. The mother of five made it a rule that her children had to wait until 6th grade before signing up for their first audition.

Her sister Kylie, 22, graduated from high school at the same time she earned an AA degree from community college. Paige, 20, is the mother of Bennett’s first grandchild. Both sisters flew in from Orem, Utah, to see their sibling in the Broadway revival.

Sam is a student at Jackson High School and has already appeared in six productions. Nineteen-year-old sister Lilly was unable to attend while serving her mission in Oceanside, Calif.

Even with her daughter on stage at the 5th Avenue Theater, Bennett and the other mothers never forgot their responsibility as parents. The mothers have taken turns remaining in Seattle to take the youngsters to dinner.

“The cast is excused every night for a dinner break at about 5,” she said. “The MOD Pizza next door to the theater has gotten a lot of regular business during the run of ‘Annie.’”

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