The only thing getting in Hannah Beatts’ way is school. But she’s not a poor student — in fact, the seventh-grader made straight As at Booker Middle School last quarter.
“School isn’t my favorite this year — it has been hard to do it all,” she says.
On top of school work, she’s balancing two lead roles: Millie, in Booker Middle’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and Annie, in The Players’ production of “Annie.” If she could have it her way, she’d do musical theater and skip the bookwork.
After school, Hannah goes straight to rehearsal and gets home about 10 p.m. Some days she can’t keep her eyes open long enough to finish her homework. But she’s not complaining, because her school encourages her performances, and she knows she will catch up.
She has already performed on Broadway in the production of “Shrek the Musical.”
In 2009, Cynthia Ashford, Hannah’s director at Spotlight Kids!, the Sarasota-based children’s musical-theater troupe, was watching Hannah and her younger sister, Julia, during the summer. Ashford saw something in Hannah and submitted a video to a DreamWorks Theatrical and Nickelodeon contest.
“(Ashford) knew about the contest and she asked me if I minded submitting her,” Hannah’s mom, Danielle, says. “I didn’t think anything of it … and then I got an email that she won.”
Winning meant Hannah, a fourth-grader at the time, would fly to New York City to play the role of Young Fiona on Broadway for one night — a dream come true for Hannah.
“I guess good luck fell on me that day,” Hannah says of winning. But her talent as a singer and dancer begs to differ; it was more than luck.
“I remember how scared I was,” Hannah says. “I remember trying not to let my family down because I only had a couple of days to practice — it was a humongous deal to me.”
The experience was addictive. As soon as Hannnah got off the stage, she knew performing was how she wanted to spend her time. Her parents, Grant and Danielle Beatt, continue to help her reach her Broadway goal. They got her an agent and since 2009 have been flying her to New York City for auditions.
“I like the auditioning process,” Hannah says. “It’s good for people to know who I am in the New York world.”
During the past year, she’s tried out for six Broadway productions: “Shrek the Musical,” “Annie,” “Evita,” “Mary Poppins,” “Billy Elliot” and “Les Miserables.”
Although she didn’t get cast in a role, Hannah did make it to the final 13 for “Annie.” Hannah chalks the loss up to a great experience. Plus, getting cast as Annie in The Players’ production is just as exciting for her.
Her first community experience was at age 6, as Gretel in The Players’ production of “The Sound of Music.” Since then, she’s been in two community theater productions of “Annie” at Manatee Players and Venice Theatre; and one at a professional theater, Broadway Palms in Fort Myers. But this is her first time playing Annie.
“I’ve never been the star (before),” she says, flashing her big, trademark smile. “And I got it!”
Danielle Beatt says Hannah used to cry if her mom left rehearsals.
“But now she’s comfortable,” Danielle Beatt says. “(Each production) is like going home for her.”
Although performing on Broadway remains her dream, she’s not in a rush. Being a child actor is something she does for fun — not for a full-time job.
“Working isn’t a kid’s main job,” she says. “Plus, all the child actors I know crash and burn.”
Being on stage makes Hannah tick. She says she becomes the character, enjoys sharing her image and feelings of the character and connecting with the audience.
Her mom chimes in to relay that though Hannah is modest, she doesn’t mind the sound of applause and the immediate feedback. Hannah blushes a little, but she agrees.
Hannah is driven to do her best — she’s a young perfectionist.
“When (director) Bob (Trisolini) gives me a note, I want to do as much as I can to make (the next time) better,” she says. “I always want to leave an impression on people.”
And that, she has. Multiple people have told Danielle Beatt how mature, talented and well-spoken her daughter is.
“I want them to say, ‘Did you see that girl up there?’” Hannah says. “She’s the best Annie we’ve ever had!”
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6. Runs through Dec. 16.
Where: Sarasota Players, 838 N. Tamiami Trail