Warm, self-assured, cheerful and optimistic are just a few of the traits that not only describe the title character in Annie, they are also embodied by the girl playing the role during Tuacahn’s production this summer: Lydia Ricks.
Locally grown and supremely qualified, Lydia Ricks is every bit as charming as she is poised, a seeming 14-going-on-40 maturity that evades many of her peers.
It’s positively endearing.
We recently sat down with Lydia Ricks (virtually, of course) to get the scoop on what it’s like to shoulder the weight of the title role in a family favorite like Annie, and what she does when she’s not belting out the lyrics to “Tomorrow” to fill the Tuacahn Canyon.
Sitting on the couch in her Washington Fields home, Lydia Ricks is perfectly at ease with herself. Although she looks to be around 8 to 10 years old — like her character, Annie — she’s actually 14. But even most 14-year-olds are not nearly as polished and poised as the young girl looking back through the screen during a recent virtual interview.
Virtual because, well, COVID.
“I love being under the lights and on the stage. I love the adrenaline.”
Like her fellow cast members, Lydia is following the many strict safety regulations that have allowed Tuacahn to open its 2021 theater season. For Lydia, these are sacrifices that are well worth making because, as she puts it, “I don’t care what guidelines I have to follow, I just want to be performing and with people again.”
With a gentle smile, Lydia recalls her earliest theatrical role as Emily in a community theater production of Saturday’s Warrior. Ever since then, Lydia has felt at home in the spotlight, and in love with the stage.
“The more I was with people who do theater — really kind, supportive people — I came to realize this is really fun!” Lydia says. “I love being under the lights and on the stage. I love the adrenaline.”
Lydia’s Tuacahn debut as the title role in the 2018 production of Matilda the Musical only served to increase her passion for this unique world.
Tricks of the trade
With one hand stroking the head of a Golden Doodle named Griffey, who plays Annie’s sidekick Sandy in the show, Lydia coos about what a good dog he is and how amazing it is to act with an animal on stage. She has three weekly “play dates” with Griffey, just so he continues feeling comfortable around her. Plus, they have time together on stage during rehearsals.
“I would spend my life with him if I could. He is so well trained and I love him!” Lydia says.
Lydia knows working with an animal leaves an actor open to the possibility of things going wrong but she’s not worried. One of the things Lydia loves about live theater is the fact that “it’s never boring. There’s always something new every night.”
After experiencing a few hiccups that required some quick thinking on her part, like when one of her fellow actors in Matilda forgot to bring a key prop on stage during a particular scene, Lydia has learned to just keep her cool no matter what comes up.
Speaking of keeping cool, things can get pretty hot during rehearsals in the outdoor Amphitheatre. Lydia and her mom Ruby learned a few tricks during Matilda. They expect Lydia will need to use their cooling methods even more this year since so many rehearsals will take place outside, (another of the COVID precautions) and they’re more than happy to share their tips and tricks with the parents of the other children in Annie.
Some of Lydia’s go-to survival tips include:
- Ice packs strapped around her waist
- A cooling towel on her neck
- A spray fan
- Always wear a hat
“I look a little unrecognizable in rehearsals, but its worth it,” Lydia says.
Lydia also says it’s super important to keep your voice — and your whole body — healthy. Her mom, Ruby, helps her by making sure she gets plenty of sleep (black out curtains are a big help for sleeping in after a late rehearsal) and vitamins.
Acting the part
Although Lydia’s long, blond hair is a far cry from the tight red coils that usually belong to her on-stage counterpart, (yes, she uses a wig) it seems Annie and Lydia have some other things in common. A general lack of knowledge when it comes to sports, for starters.
Laughing, Lydia and her mom, Ruby, recall the time when Lydia’s fifth grade teacher asked her if she knew anything about the Super Bowl. Lydia’s response was that it had something to do with soccer.
It turns out Annie doesn’t have much mental space for sports either. During one scene with Oliver Warbucks, he asks her if she’d like to meet Babe Ruth. Annie’s line is one that Lydia says she echoed in real life when she asks, “Who is Babe Ruth?”
Don’t worry, she’s figured it out now.
In real life, Lydia would much rather read about Harry Potter than anything to do with sports. But she loves rock climbing with her dad. She also loves to bake —
chocolate chip cookies are her favorite and she thinks she’s finally found the perfect version.
She’s a student at Crimson Cliffs Middle School and has been able to work her schedule so that some of her work is through Utah Online School and some is in person. That way she has half a day off every other day, perfect for rehearsals or catching up on some much needed R&R.
Though she doesn’t really want too much relaxing; she’d rather be at Tuacahn working.
For her, Tuacahn is like a second home — an emotional truth she shared with Hyrum Smith when he attended his last Tuacahn production in 2019.
“That was really special,” Lydia says, momentarily trailing off to consider the memory.
Lydia’s mom agrees that Tuacahn has been such a blessing, not only for Lydia, but for her daughter Penny who will perform in Tuacahn’s School of Rock this summer alongside Lydia.
For logistical and personal reasons, Ruby says they don’t have the girls audition outside of the area right now. So the opportunity to perform professionally at Tuacahn has been the perfect situation.
Like most 14-year-olds, Lydia has a lot of dreams. And even though she’s living some of them right now, she has plenty of ideas about the future.
Dream roles, for example.
“I would love to play ANY role in Wicked,” she says. (You hear that, Broadway?)
She would also love to play Mary in The Secret Garden and as an adult she wants to play Miss Honey in Matilda the Musical.
“Having done the Matilda role, I would love to get to feel what Miss Honey was feeling,” she says.
As for a career on the stage, for now, Lydia’s not sure. She loves, loves, loves it, of course. But she is also interested in her dad’s line of work as a civil engineer. She would still like to perform in New York City one day. In fact, she would like to GO to New York City one day. She’s never been.
“Me and my dad want to go really bad,” she says. “It would be a dream come true!”
Maybe when things calm down post-pandemic.
For now, Lydia is loving her life and just can’t wait for everyone to see this year’s production of Annie.
Tickets to Annie are on sale now at the Tuacahn box office. The show runs May 14 through July 10.