Just when you thought controversy over the Broadway revival of Annie was over, a new dispute has arisen in a New York tabloid.
Nell Carter, recovered from a hernia that kept her out of the show in late April, is now feeling a different kind of pain. Television commercials for the new revival of Annie prominently feature her name, but not her. Instead, the show's producers have gone back 15 years to use footage of the original show, featuring cast replacement Marcia Lewis as Miss Hannigan. The commercial names Carter, who is African-American, but shows Lewis, who is white.
Ironically, Lewis now has a major role in another Broadway revival, Chicago, which is competing with Annie for the Best Musical Revival Tony Award.
The New York Post, in its May 22 issue, uses quotes from Carter that make it seem she felt the producers were racially motivated. But in a statement released to the press later the same day, Carter said she never accused the producers of racism.
Carter is quoted in the Post saying, "It hurts a lot! I've asked them nicely to stop it -- it's insulting to me as a black woman. But they never have shot a commercial with me and I don't think they're going to. Maybe they don't want audiences to know Nell Carter is black." Producer Rodger Hess reportedly responded, "[It's] purely a question of economics. These commercials cost so much money."
Asked about the situation by Playbill On-Line, The Cromarty & Company press office, spokespersons for Annie, were unable to comment.
Carter released this statement through her agent, Judy Katz:
"I, Nell Carter, never ever ever accused my producers or anyone in the company of racism. Yes, it is true that I and my representatives have gone to management on more than one occasion about the commercial and were told there was nothing they could do about it. Therefore, I have resigned myself to the fact that this is just the way it is. Last week I had an interview with a writer from the NY Post, whom I like and respect. I was asked how I felt about the commercial, and I said I felt slighted and hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it.
"Lastly, I do not choose to bring any negative publicity to the show whatsoever. I come to work and I enjoy what I do. Right now I feel slighted that someone would take something said with no malice intended and turn it around and sensationalize it."
Asked how the race issue became an issue, Katz said that Carter did not initiate the black/white angle; reporters (including those from the Post and Variety) brought it up first. "This is not a black-white issue, although yes, the commercial does not reflect the racial diversity of the show."
Katz also told Playbill On-Line Carter felt the story was already growing out of proportion, and she will therefore not be doing further interviews for the time being.
-- By David Lefkowitz