Mia McFarland

South Valley Junior High School student Mia McFarland is excited to play Annie because she enjoys the musical’s songs.

At age 12, Mia McFarland already knows what she wants to pursue as a career: acting.

The Gilbert resident is working her way toward a successful career by starring as Annie in the Valley Youth Theatre’s production of the same name at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

By joining the VYT, she’s following in the footsteps of alum like Jordin Sparks and Emma Stone.

“There is a lot of cool music in ‘Annie,’” said Mia, a student at South Valley Junior High School.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s fun to be performing in the show. I can be myself and I have something I’m personally good at. This is such a big opportunity with Valley Youth Theatre.”

“Annie,” which runs June 15 to July 1, tells the classic story of an orphan in 1930s New York City. She is determined to find the parents who abandoned her on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage run by the cruel, Miss Hannigan.

With the help of the other girls in the orphanage, Annie escapes to the wondrous world of NYC. She finds a new home with billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

This isn’t Mia’s first headlining role. She appeared as Virginia in “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” with the East Valley Children’s Theater.

Her resume also includes stints as Mayor Matilda in “All Shook Up” with the Actor’s Youth Theater; July in Greasepaint’s “Annie Jr.”; and Little Red in “Little Red Riding Hood” with Baker Performing Arts in Gilbert.

At South Valley Junior High School, Mia is a member of student council and spring cheerleading and is set to graduate in 2023. She also participates in Girl Scouts and Voices of Glee at Actor’s Youth Theatre.

In her spare time, Mia loves going to musicals, tumbling, trampoline and playing with her dog, Percy. She is the daughter of Joe and Heidi McFarland and the sister of 16-year-old Danny.

Mia fell in love with acting at a two-week camp, run by Gilbert’s Studio 3 Performing Arts Academy. She was in tumbling for several years, but after camp, she immediately immersed herself in musical theater.

“She really likes singing musical theater songs around the house,” Heidi said. “I remember when she was very little, she was in the school Christmas choir show. I could always hear her voice.

“My son had been doing it and I never heard his voice. I thought maybe because she was a girl and wasn’t afraid to sing. Lo and behold, we found out she could carry a really good tune.”

Heidi is impressed with the staff at Valley Youth Theatre, including producing artistic director Bobb Cooper and resident costume designer Karol Cooper.

“The cast and the teachers are very, very supportive and inspiring,” Heidi said. “It’s very intense. We’re glad it’s the summertime.

“It’s really nice that Bobb and Karol are in the show. That’s really special. It’s a great experience for Mia. She may not realize how special it is until she looks back years from now.”

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