SHE could barely walk as a child.
But now teenager Courtney Layton is celebrating a starring role in Annie the musical.
It is a moment the youngster’s family thought they would never see.
As a toddler Courtney was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome, which means she finds it difficult to control her muscles, and was classed as disabled until she was eight years old.
She struggled throughout school with a helper, while her mother Stacey was told she would never be able to walk properly, let alone dance.
But the 13-year-old has proved the medics wrong and will now play the lead role of Annie in the Portsmouth Players’ production of the classic musical at the Kings Theatre in Southsea next February.
Courtney, who lives in Portchester and attends Portchester Community School, said: ‘I’m just so happy. All I’ve ever wanted to do is dance and perform and now I’ve got the chance.’
Mum Stacey added: ‘She never crawled or walked. It wasn’t until she started dancing properly when she was seven years old that things started to get easier. She danced instead of going to physiotherapy.
‘Her condition means when we walk a mile, she might as well be running it. Or even running 10 miles. Everything is more difficult for her.’
Hypermobility Syndrome means that her joints may be weaker and stiffer than normal, making it difficult to move with ease. But Courtney has used dancing to help build up her muscles and manage her condition.
Stacey added: ‘When she did start walking when she was about three years old she still couldn’t go up stairs.
‘She was so wobbly she needed help, and someone would help her in nursery and school. It made her quite scared and shy, because she had only just got to grips with everything, and there were all these other children charging round. But I’m extremely proud of her, she works hard every day.’
After more than 100 girls turned up to open auditions, the potential Annies were whittled down to six. Those remaining were then asked to sing a song and perform a scene from the musical.
Courtney had always wanted to play the famous red-haired role after taking part in the All England Dance National Finals, which gave her the chance to perform Tomorrow at the Peacock Theatre in London.
She said: ‘I was so nervous with so many girls auditioning, but now I’m just so happy. I just love the atmosphere and the feeling you get on stage.
‘I hope to go and perform in the West End when I’m older.’
Courtney now attends Marie Clark School of Dance, Southsea, and Pauline Simpson’s singing classes in Hilsea.
The young performer will also be a back-up dancer in the Ferneham Hall pantomime, Beauty and The Beast, this Christmas, which she has taken part in since she was eight years old.
· Annie runs from February 14-18, 2012.
Friend will also be a star
COURTNEY won’t be the only girl in the starring role, as her best friend Talia Duff will also be playing Annie on alternate nights.
Talia, 10, who lives in Cosham and attends Lyndhurst Junior School, said: ‘Me and Courtney kept getting called back so I knew something was going on.
‘It’s so exciting. I can’t wait for all my friends to come and see it.
‘All I’ve ever wanted to do is dance and perform, and it’s going to be so exciting to start getting ready to play Annie.’
Talia, who has been dancing since the tender age of two years old, will also be performing alongside Courtney in Beauty and The Beast.