Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates will bemoan "little girls" as orphanage matron Miss Hannigan in the upcoming TV movie-musical version of "Annie," the producers announced.
The title role of the musical, which was a smash on Broadway beginning in 1977, will be played by 11-year-old New York actress, Alicia Morton, who currently rotates with two other actresses in the roles of Young Cosette and Young Eponine in Broadway's Les Miserables.
The role of Daddy Warbucks has not yet been cast. Bates won the Oscar for playing the psychopathic fan in "Misery." Eleven-year-old Marissa Rago plays Pepper.
Broadway's Rob Marshall (Little Me, Cabaret) will direct and choreograph TV's "Annie." His previous TV dances were in "Mrs. Santa Claus." "Annie," for Walt Disney Television, is expected to restore some story elements and songs lost or muted when the Broadway musical was Hollywoodized in 1982. New songs will be added, as well. 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." Mary Kay Powell of Rastar Productions will executive produce and Brad Krevoy will co produce.
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."
After a national search of 3,000 candidates for the roles of Little Orphan Annie, the red-haired moppet from the famous newspaper comic strips, prodcuers chose the already-proven Morton.
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 now plays Belle in 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 are working 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," 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).
Annie won Tony Awards for Actress (Dorothy Loudon, beating McArdle), Book, Choreographer, Scenic Designer, Costume Designer, Musical and Sco `77 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 (minus the new song) ran to March 1999 starring Sally Struthers.
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