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FHS alumna has sultry role in ‘Nine’

March 28, 2019

Anna Drake’s shining moment in Friendswood High School’s 2012 musical “The Pajama Game” inspired her to pursue a career in musical theater, including her turn as Carla Albanase in “Nine,” playing March 29 through April 14 at artfactory in Houston.

“It sort of changed my path,” said the actress, now 24 and scheduled to graduate in May from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

In “The Pajama Game,” the daughter of Roseann Drake of Friendswood and Gary Drake of Crestview, Fla. sizzled as Gladys Hotchkiss, the sexy secretary who leads a group of garment workers in the show’s Act II opening number, “Steam Heat.”

Of her current role, Drake said, Carla is based on a real woman, Anna Giovannini, who was the mistress of Italian film director Federico Fellini for 30 years. The musical is based on Fellini’s 1963 semiautobiographical movie, “8 1 ⁄ 2.”

Drake’s big number in “Nine,” is a sultry showstopper called “A Call from the Vatican,” in which Carla phones her lover, a film director, from a lonely hotel room. Miles away, he tells people in the room where he’s holding court that it’s a call from the Vatican.

The number was choreographed by Luke Hamilton, a 2011 graduate of Clear Brook High School.

Drake said she learned dedication from her theater mentors in musicals at Friendswood High.

At Sam Houston, Drake has played Fastrada in “Pippin,” Amber Von Tussle in “Hairspray” and Ann, the protagonist in Paula Vogel’s 1990 play, “The Baltimore Waltz.”

At artfactory, Drake began as a member of the ensemble in the musical “Rent,” but has since starred as Julia Sullivan in “The Wedding Singer,” Cinderella in “Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella” and Sara in “Murder Ballad,” her favorite show.

“At artfactory, they pick their season so specifically and we churn out one show after another,” Drake said. “The work feels so important and right. You think it’s hard and exhausting, but you feed into the momentum and you feel exhilarated on the drive back home.”

Appearing opposite Drake in the entirely Houston-area cast of “Nine” are Jared Barnes as Guido Contini, Savannah Lee as Claudia, Crystyl Swanson as Luisa, Brennan Ashley as Sarraghina and Heather Hall as Lilianne La Fleur.

“Nine” is directed by Bruce Lumpkin, who was formerly the artistic director at Theatre Under the Stars.

Hamilton assistant directed the musical, with Jane Volke conducting a live orchestra as music director and Colton Berry serving as the production designer.

“Nine” will be performed at 8 p.m. Fridaysthrough Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are available at ArtFactoryHouston.com or by calling the box office at 832-210-5200. The theater is just north of downtown Houston at 1125 Providence St. Ample on-site parking is free.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net