Junior musicals are a great way to nurture young talent says Annie Jr producer Maureen Cruickshank.

The January production by Musikmakers is based on the Tony award-winning 1977 Broadway musical Annie. Annie Jr is shortened and edited to be performed by youngsters and has been performed internationally in acting academies, schools and theatre camps.

The original musical was set in 1930s New York and written around depression-era cartoon character Little Orphan Annie.

Annie Jr follows Annie living a "hard-knock life" at The New York City Municipal Orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan.

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In adventure after fun-filled adventure, Annie foils Miss Hannigan's evil machinations, befriends President Franklin Roosevelt and finds a new family in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his secretary Grace Farrell and lovable mutt Sandy. Musikmaker's Annie Jr features dual leads — Lily Burgess-Munro, 11, who comes from a background in Matamata Musical Theatre and Ruby-Jane van Deursen, also 11, a student of the Valerie Lissette School of Dance in Hamilton. Both play Annie. Lily and Ruby-Jane will perform in alternate shows.

Other leading roles include Amelia Liedwig as tyrannical orphanage manager Miss Hannigan and patriarch Oliver 'Daddy' Warbucks played by Harry Roberts.

Annie Jr followed Aladdin Jr earlier this year and was also about developing the next generation of actors, Cruickshank said.

"This is about Riverlea's commitment to training new actors and having something on during the school holidays for the kids to see when there is not a whole lot more to do in Hamilton."

Six weeks of rehearsals began in October and the show's rousing song and dance routines include Tomorrow and It's the Hard Knock Life.

Musikmaker's Annie Jr, directed by Toni Garson, musical direction by Coryn Knapper, choreography by Tess Benseman is at the Riverlea Theatre 15-19 January 11am and 2pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2pm and 7pm Friday and Saturday. An 'autistic friendly' performance — low lights and no strobes — is on at 11am Thursday 17 January. Tickets iticket or call the theatre 07 856 5450.

Musikmakers offers a double ticket giveaway, email maureen@musicmakers.org.nz, close December 22.