Annie again: Issaquah girl’s latest acting gig is voice for ‘Magic Tree House’

February 8, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Emily Rudolph records the voice for Annie, a character from the ‘Magic Tree House’ book series. By Cricket Moon Media

Jack and Annie climbed into their magic tree house and pointed at a book. As in all of the “Magic Tree House” stories, the book they chose sped them through time and space.

Random House Children’s Books brought the series to life with its Magic Tree House website, where a spunky Annie and eager Jack quiz readers about their historical, out-of-this-world adventures.

Issaquah Middle School sixth-grader Emily Rudolph knows the website well — she does the voice for Annie, guiding participants through games on the website.

“I’ve been reading ‘Magic Tree House’ since second grade,” she said. “I feel like I can relate to Annie.”

Emily has already recorded twice at Cricket Moon Media in Seattle, and Producer Laura Nash said she looked forward to more sessions with the pint-sized star.

“She just has a really great reading voice,” Nash said. “She is unusually peppy and friendly. She sounds like an all-American kid without trying, which is really hard to do.”

Though new to voice recording, Emily is familiar with show business. In 2007-08, she and her older brother Josh Rudolph played two of the King of Siam’s children in “The King and I” at Village Theatre.

The acting bug bit her. Onstage she could sing, dance and transform herself into another person.

“I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever done in the world, well so far,” she said.

After playing Siamese royalty, she returned to the stage, but at Issaquah Valley Elementary School.

“She just did school plays, because we really didn’t think there was anything to this theater thing,” her mother Liz Rudolph said.

Still, Emily could not resist the world of acting. She found a singing coach in one of the most unorthodox places — her brother’s baseball practice.

Emily began singing with one of her friends while their brothers went to bat. One of the baseball parents, Martin Charnin, the Tony-award winning writer of “Annie,” heard them singing and began coaching the girls.

Charnin liked Emily’s voice, and he and his wife, Shelly Burch, agreed to teach her voice lessons. From there, her stage career blossomed, with her acting in “The Wiz,” a 2009 Village Theatre KIDSTAGE SummerStock production and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at The 5th Avenue Theatre later that year. The family even flew to New York so Emily could audition for the 30th anniversary national tour of “Annie” with NETworks Tours.

“It was really scary because I knew there were all these people around me with tons of experience,” Emily said. “I kept thinking, ‘Please, please, please.’”

She sang and danced to “Hard Knock Life,” and landed the part of Tessie, the orphan known for her catchphrase, “Oh my goodness.”

Emily and her mother boarded the tour bus in November 2009 and, for the next five months, traveled the country for “Annie.” Emily withdrew from Issaquah Valley and used a tutor on the school bus to do her schoolwork.

Emily called the tour “nerve wracking” when she had to perform and leave for the next town in one night, but said she felt best when acting.

“It’s really exhilarating,” she said. “You just feel a surge of happiness. It’s great when you get a standing ovation.”

When the tour ended, her auditions continued. She played the munchkin coroner in the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre’s presentation of “The Wizard of Oz,” and she co-played the star role in “Annie” this winter with the Driftwood Players in Edmonds. At the same time, she began doing voiceovers for the Magic Tree House website.

“She was a one-take wonder,” Liz said, proud of her daughter’s voiceovers.

Roy Arauz, the Driftwood Players director for “Annie,” said Emily had presence, confidence and a phenomenal voice.

“When I challenged her and I made her work extra hard, she would do it,” he said. “She shone during the show.”

Though Liz Rudolph and her husband Gary initially approached the acting world cautiously, they have now reached a satisfactory agreement.

“We have our commitment to academics,” Liz said. “She has to stay on the honor roll to stay in acting.”

Emily continues to audition for theater and movies, all while keeping on top of her schoolwork, singing and dance lessons, and volleyball practice. For those interested in acting, she had a fair bit of advice.

“You have to be the role,” Emily said. “You have to be in the mindset where you are the role. There is no pretending.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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