ABC-TV Follows the Annie Search, Feb. 16

News   ABC-TV Follows the Annie Search, Feb. 16
 
For an upcoming edition of the "Turning Point," ABC News went behind the scenes of the Broadway-bound revival of Annie, during the revival's casting and audition process, offering a host of adorable Annies, an ever sympathetic Martin Charnin, and a brief history of one of the most popular family musicals in Broadway history.

(L-R) Joanna Pacitti, Zappa
(L-R) Joanna Pacitti, Zappa Photo by Photo by Susie Works

For an upcoming edition of the "Turning Point," ABC News went behind the scenes of the Broadway-bound revival of Annie, during the revival's casting and audition process, offering a host of adorable Annies, an ever sympathetic Martin Charnin, and a brief history of one of the most popular family musicals in Broadway history.

Airing Feb. 16 at 8 PM, the ABC documentary will take (according to spokesperson Chris Alexander) a "fun and comprehensive look at the making of a Broadway production." According to Alexander, the producers granted the network news crew "total access to the exhaustive auditions and casting search."

According to Annie spokesperson Hugh Hayes, the access couldn't truly be total because Actors' Equity forbids the filming of Equity members during auditions, so non-Equity hopefuls were filmed instead. Nevertheless, Hayes said, "It's a real coup for a Broadway show to have an hour-long, nationally televised hour devoted to it. Pretty neat stuff."

On the show, Tim Childs, an Annie producer, admits, "Approximately one show out of every seven recoups. It's easy to lose all your money in a Broadway show. It's easy to lose half your money in a Broadway show."

Lyricist/director Martin Charnin counters, "You don't wake up in this business in the morning and say, `I've got to get to Topeka!' You wake up in this business and you say, `I've got to get to Broadway!', and that's where the dream resides." "Turning Point," hosted by Barbara Walters, has titled this segment "Broadway's New `Annie': Search For A Star."

Though the documentary has a brief interview with Nell Carter and a look at John Schuck getting his head shaved, much of the show concerns the kids' auditions and the show's trip from casting to first night. The show also goes back to the first Annie production in 1977 and tells a few things people might not know -- such as that Andrea McArdle was not the first choice for the orphan; another girl was fired a week into previews because (as Charnin said, "I see no sadness in her.") The documentary also covers how the actors and the dog learn to work with each other, and all the technical things leading to the world premiere.

Ann Reynolds, producer of the "Turning Point" segment, told Playbill On-Line she was given the time slot to do a theatre-oriented story (her first love) and chose Annie because she wanted a show with some history that had a very good chance of making it to NY without closing on the road. "Besides, I wanted something people everywhere knew about. Not everybody knows a theatre person, but everybody knows a little girl."

Asked about how she edited the sequence down to a 1-hour segment, Reynolds said, "Well, all these things start at an hour and three-quarters. Then you cut back and cut back and cut back. For example, we had a whole sequence about the snow onstage and how that's done. But to keep it, we'd have had to cut one of the auditioning Annies. We gave up the snow."

Interestingly, Reynolds encountered little resistance from her television higher-ups from doing a theatre show -- even though theatre on TV has, of recent years, suffered from dishearteningly low ratings.

"No, the surprise is how much resistance I received from the theatre itself," Reynolds told Playbill On-Line. "We don't inhabit the theatre world, so they look at us and say, `well, what are you really doing? And how long is the piece, etc.' Everyone else in the world is begging for us to do an hour on them, but theatre and the unions make it very tough. Maybe the reason theatre isn't done more on TV is because it's so difficult to do."

The 20th anniversary revival of Annie, starring Nell Carter and Joanna Pacitti, currently on tour, will begin previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre March 13 and open March 27.

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