You can't keep an Annie down! Joanna Pacitti, picked from hundreds of young auditioners to be the new lead of Broadway's revival of Annie, then fired before the show came to Broadway, now gets a chance to play the little orphan that could. Broadway veteran Terrence Mann directs Pacitti in a production of Annie at the North Carolina Theatre, where Mann serves as artistic director. The show opens July 11, and runs to July 20.
Twelve-year-old Pacitti did 106 performances on the Annie tour before the sun came out instead for Brittny Kissinger, who now plays the role in the Broadway mounting at the Martin Beck Theatre. A lawsuit is pending, with Pacitti suing the department store that sponsored the "contest" to choose the next Annie.
Pacitti told the Post, "I felt pretty bad about the whole thing, especially with some people saying I was no good. But this is definitely the best thing that's happened to me since I got Zappa." (Zappa was the pooch who was to play Sandy -- until the understudy, Cindy Lou, got that role.) Said Mann of his choice, "Quite simply, she just wants to be Annie."
The 14-year-old North Carolina Theatre, a professional regional musical theatre in Raleigh, opens the show July 11 (no previews). Starring as Miss Hannigan will be Adinah Alexander, who was in the Whistle Down The Wind tour. Lily will be played by Lori Mahl; Rooster by Jeffrey Max. Daddy Warbucks and other cast-members have not yet been chosen. Pacitti told Playbill On-Line in late May that she recently looked over her Annie script and still remembered it very well. Asked what moment in the show is her favorite, Pacitti chose, "Hard Knock Life." "I always liked that song," she said. "It's her toughness. She's taking care of Molly and bossing all the kids around. it's a really fun scene."
It had been a wild and difficult few months for Pacitti, who went from the Broadway-bound spotlight to making tabloid front pages over her firing. Asked how friends treated her during the tough times, Pacitti said they told her they were sorry about what happened. "They gave me a lot of sympathy and support. But they also said, `one door closes and another door opens.' And now I really believe things happen for a reason."
The young actress may reach Broadway yet. She just got a role in a new musical in development, Kids Are People, Too. "They're thinking of it as `a kids' Chorus Line.' It'll be about kids in show business and have a lot of dancing and singing in it." The producers will workshop the piece in front of an audience, Sept.-Oct. Then, if things go well, they'll either go straight to Broadway or do a small tour first.
Says Pacitti's manager, "The original Chip from Beauty & The Beast will also be in the cast." Production manager Jared Bloom also penned some of the songs in the show.
Pacitti has also taken a role with Philadelphia's Three Little Bakers dinner theatre in their revue, Give My Regards To Broadway. "It'll be a lot of singing and tapping. I'm not sure what it's about, but they said they're gonna build it around me." That show goes into rehearsals Jan. Feb. 1998 with performances starting at the end of February.
As for the North Carolina Theatre, marketing director Deborah Fox told Playbill On-Line, "We run five shows a year. We just finished Carousel with Mark McVey, and after Annie [July 11-20] comes Fiddler On The Roof [Sept. 12-21]."
Artistic director Mann has guided the theatre since its opening in 1984. He's starred there as King Arthur in Camelot (1984), Sweeney in Sweeney Todd, Capt. Hook in Peter Pan, and Nicky in Funny Girl. On Broadway he played Beast in Beauty And The Beast, Javert in Les Miserables and Rum Tum Tugger in Cats.
Check out North Carolina Theatre's website -- http://www.nctheatre.com -- for information about their 1998 season, which will include Show Boat (Feb. 13-22, 1998), The Phantom Of The Opera (May 12-17, 1998), Big River (July 10-19, 1998), The Secret Garden (Sept. 11-20), and Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Nov. 6-15). For tickets and information please call (919) 831-6942.