Calling All Orphans! Disney Announces Open Call for Potential 'Annie' TV Movie Moppets

News   Calling All Orphans! Disney Announces Open Call for Potential 'Annie' TV Movie Moppets
 
Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Orlando, FL, are the cities where thousands of "little girls" will flock to see if they have a bright "tomorrow" playing Little Orphan Annie or her pals in the upcoming Walt Disney TV musical based on the Broadway hit.

Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Orlando, FL, are the cities where thousands of "little girls" will flock to see if they have a bright "tomorrow" playing Little Orphan Annie or her pals in the upcoming Walt Disney TV musical based on the Broadway hit.

Open calls for the role of Annie have drawn countless would-be starlets in the past (for the 1982 film version as well and the recent Broadway revival), generating lots of hope, tears and media attention.

Storyline Entertainment and Walt Disney Company have promised the TV musical for a spot next season on ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney." Filming will be this summer in Los Angeles.

Ironically, it was ABC News' "Turning Point" that documented the road to Broadway for a 12-year-old actress named Joanna Pacitti in 1997. She was cast as the red-curled Annie in the 20th anniversary Broadway revival production and, following months on the road, was replaced by her understudy at the last minute, causing parental outrage and mixed feelings among theatregoers and industry people.

The upcoming open call -- "for talented young ladies ranging in age from 8-12 years old and who are between 3-feet and 4-feet-10-inches tall," according to the announcement -- is expected to be all about hope and sunshine, of course. The auditions will take place per the following schedule:

Los Angeles - Saturday, February 27, 1999

9 AM-3 PM

Walt Disney Studios, 500 S. Buena Vista Street, Burbank.

Enter through the Buena Vista Street gate; candidates will be seen as follows based on the first letter of their last name:

A-H - 9 AM-11 AM

I-Q - 11 AM-1 PM

R-Z - 1 PM-3 PM

Chicago - Sunday, February 28, 1999

9 AM-3 PM

Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Enter through the Delaware Street entrance; candidates will be seen as follows based on the first letter of their last name:

A-H - 9 AM-11 AM

I-Q - 11 AM-1 PM

R-Z - 1 PM-3 PM

New York - Saturday, March 6, 1999

8 AM 2 PM

New York Sheraton, 811 7th Ave., New York.

Enter through the 53rd Street entrance; candidates will be seen as follows based on the first letter of their last name:

A-H - 8 AM-10 AM

I-Q - 10 AM-12 noon

R-Z - Noon- 2 PM

Orlando - Sunday, March 7, 1999

9 AM-3 PM

Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World.

Report to the registration booth at the main entrance; candidates will be seen as follows based on the first letter of their last name:

A-H - 9 AM-11 AM

I-Q - 11 AM-1 PM

R-Z - 1 PM- 3 PM

Girls should come to the audition with a Polaroid snapshot and be prepared to sing 12 bars of the Annie classic, "Tomorrow" (piano accompanist will be provided). The producers will see everyone meeting the age and height requirements who comes to the audition at the proper time.

All minors must be accompanied by their parent or legal guardian, no exceptions, according to the casting notice.

Recorded information regarding the auditions in all the cities is available at (818) 238-2554.

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Broadway's Rob Marshall will direct and choreograph the TV movie of Annie that is expected to restore story elements and songs lost or muted when the Broadway musical was Hollywoodized in 1982.

Executive producer Chris Montan (of Walt Disney) and executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan (of Storyline Entertainment) are re-teaming following their 1997 success with the ABC "Wonderful World of Disney" broadcast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella."

Zadan told Playbill On-Line Feb. 9 that in the new $10 million TV movie -- expected to be shot in June 1999 in Los Angeles and aired November 1999 -- "Tomorrow" (sung over the title credits in the 1982 John Huston directed film) will indeed be a major part of the plot again.

The show's cheerful anthem in Act One (reprised in Act Two) became an instant hit in 1977 and shot actress Andrea McArdle to national fame.

The Broadway song, "NYC," not in the film, will also be part of the new TV movie, Zadan said. That number, a tour of 1930s New York City that helped bond Daddy Warbucks and Annie, was replaced in the 1982 film by "Let's Go to the Movies," a new number by composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Martin Charnin. The film also included new tunes "Sign," "We Got Annie" and "Dumb Dog" and didn't use Broadway's "Annie," "New Deal for Christmas," "Something Was Missing," "We'd Like to Thank You" and "You Won't Be an Orphan For Long."

The new Annie teleplay is by Irene Mecchi, one of the contributing screenwriters of Disney's animated "The Lion King," "Hercules" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

No cast has been announced, but Zadan expects it to be "all-star" except for the title role of the orphan (and her pals from the orphanage). The actress to play Little Orphan Annie, the red-haired moppet from the famous newspaper comic strips, will be found in the casting search.

Previous Annies Andrea McArdle (of the original Broadway show) and Aileen Quinn (of the film) are still working on stage: McArdle starred in State Fair on Broadway and will step into the role of Disney's Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, and Quinn was seen in national tours of Fiddler on the Roof and the Cathy Rigby version of Peter Pan.

Why re-do Annie after Hollywood created a picture already?

"The movie was a huge disappointment, even to the writers," Zadan said. "I felt the same way about the film version of Gypsy with Rosalind Russell." Zadan is one of the producers responsible for reinvigorating interest in the TV musical form with his TV movie of Gypsy starring Bette Midler in 1993.

"We're not contemporizing Annie,'' Zadan cautioned, adding that Annie will still be a fiercely optimistic red-headed orphan in Depression- era Manhattan.

Mecchi and Marshall (Broadway's Cabaret and Little Me) will work closely with the producers and songwriters, and Strouse and Charnin may write a few new numbers, Zadan said. When writing a TV movie, the script is cut into seven acts -- to accommodate commercial breaks -- rather than two, said Zadan.

"Most if not all of the original (Broadway) score" will be used, the producer added.

Annie won Tony Awards for Actress (Dorothy Loudon, beating McArdle), Book, Choreographer, Scenic Designer, Costume Designer, Musical and Score in 1977 and became a worldwide smash.

A 20th anniversary production, less lavish than the original, opened on Broadway in March 1997 starring Nell Carter as Annie's nemesis, Miss Hannigan, the orphanage matron. A new song was written for Carter. A national tour continues into 1999 starring Sally Struthers.

"Annie," the TV movie musical, is expected to air November 1999 on "The Wonderful World of Disney" in the same 7-9 PM Sunday period that was golden for "Cinderella" (in 1997).

And the future of the TV movie musical?

"What I would like to do is a number of these classics, and then after we've got (the audience), really take the next step and start commissioning original musicals. The way to do it is to first get an audience, get the audience used to tuning in each year."

Musical theatre buffs treasure Zadan's authorized show-by-show document of the works of Stephen Sondheim, "Sondheim & Co.," which, Zadan said, will have a new edition in the future.

-- By Kenneth Jones

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