* The new "Annie" remake hitting theaters on Dec. 19 may be an aggressively modernized version of Martin Charnin, Thomas Meehan and Charles Strouse's 1977 musical, with new music by Top-40 regular Sia and updates to the story that include Twitter, but one thing will always remain the same: the sweet tenacity of America's favorite orphan. (Although in the new film which counts Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jay-Z as producers, Annie and her friends are actually foster children.)
With the remake's release, the pint-sized Oscar-nominee Quvenzhane Wallis joins a legion of lucky ladies who gave a part of their own childhood to the iconic role. Here, we follow up with 21 former Annies to see what happened when they took off the red, curly wig. One thing we've learned from the documentaries and the websites dedicated to this exclusive theatrical club: Once you're an Annie, you're always an Annie.
When most people think of the original Annie, they think of Andrea McArdle, but it was actually Kristen Vigard who was the first young lady to play the role at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT. After negative reviews started surfacing during the show's pre-Broadway run, the producers decided Annie should be "tougher" and moved McArdle, who was playing an orphan at the time, into the role. Vigard became McArdle's understudy, but soon stepped out of her shadow to play Crissy in the first Broadway revival of Hair and Johanne in Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan's 1979 musical I Remember Mama.
In the '80s Vigard became an It Girl teen actress with scintillating arcs on "Guiding Light" and "One Life to Live" and roles in films like "The Black Stallion" and "The Survivors" (alongside Walter Matthau and Robin Williams). She currently resides with her husband and daughter in Taos, NM, where she is still singing and recording.
Andrea McArdle became a household name as the first girl to play Annie on Broadway in 1977. At 13 she was the youngest actress to be nominated for a Lead Actress Tony Award (she lost to Dorothy Loudon, who played Miss Hannigan), but by the time she reached 14, having already opened in the West End transfer of Annie, she had outgrown the red dress and moved back to Philadelphia to finish high school. She has since returned to Broadway to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Fantine in Les Miserables, Ashley in Starlight Express and Margy in State Fair. In the aughts McArdle has focused on recordings and cabaret-style shows, like her 2013 album "70s and Sunny: Live at 54 Below" and her latest act 4 Girls 4 — modeled after the successful 1970s concert series featuring Rosemary Clooney, Helen O'Connell, Rose Marie and Margaret Whiting — with fellow Broadway stars Donna McKechnie, Maureen McGovern and Faith Prince. Even though McArdle's well past puberty, the 1977 musical will always be part of her repertoire. She has been cast as the drunken orphanage matron Miss Hannigan in several regional productions of Annie and "Tomorrow" still pops up on her set list.
New Jersey-native Shelley Bruce, originated the role of the orphan Kate. Then as McArdle's first Broadway successor she performed for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and appeared in an RCA commercial wearing Annie's signature red wig and dress. But in 1981 Bruce's life in the fast lane came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 16.
By 1982 she was in remission and was well enough to sing with McArdle, Smith and Parker as part of a special tribute to Annie at the Kennedy Center. But it wasn't long before she left show business for good and moved out to New Jersey where she's a wife and mother of two. She also started a line of knit scarves and blankets under the name Amethyst Soteria. Ten percent of each sale is donated to pediatric cancer research, and the company's tagline has a familiar ring to it: "You're never fully dressed without one of our handmade items…"
Many years before she was running through the streets of New York in Manolo Blahniks as the curly-haired sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker was running down 5th Avenue as a much younger, less well-dressed curly-haired icon. As the original production's third replacement in 1979, Parker is perhaps the most famous former Annie.
After Parker left the show, she said it was important for her to distance herself from the adorable red-headed orphan, but she's always come back to the theatre. Last year she starred Off-Broadway in Amanda Peet's new play The Commons of Pensacola and this season her husband Matthew Broderick is setting ticket sale records in Terrence McNally's It's Only a Play.
As the fourth actress to play the red-headed moppet in the original Broadway production, Allison Smith took her final bow only four months before the show's curtain fell for the last time in 1983.
Smith went on to have a successful television career, starring as Jane Curtin's daughter Jennie Lowell in the sitcom "Kate and Allie" and Rob Lowe's love interest Mallory O'Brien on "The West Wing." She has also guest starred in over 50 other shows, but, as she says in the 2006 documentary "Life After Tomorrow," she would definitely answer the door if Broadway came knocking again.
Alyson Kirk, the fifth and final actress to play Annie in the original Broadway production, only wore the wig for four months before the producers, who had over-extended their funds with numerous touring productions, closed the stage door.
After a teary goodbye, Kirk continued acting for a few years with roles in a TV movie called "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" and the crime drama "The Equalizer." She then decided to change it up a bit and went to Syracuse University for a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition. According to a People magazine article in 2002 she was giving acting another go, but according to her LinkedIn page she's currently keeping busy in the real estate business in upstate New York.
Kathy-Jo Kelly was the first flesh and blood Annie many Americans were able to see when she was chosen from the Broadway company (she played July) to star in the first national touring company in 1978. (They also saw her mother, who joined the tour as a chorus member.)
After her early success in Annie, Kelly kept her red hair but gave up showbiz to become a psychologist.
Louanne Sirota starred in the title role in two national tours. At the time she was the youngest to pin on the red curly wig.
Sirota followed up her time in the orphanage with several TV roles including guest appearances on "Mork and Mindy" and "The Love Boat." She currently resides in England.
Having gotten her start at just seven years old playing Annie's best friend Molly in the musical's first national tour, Kristi Coombs was cast as the youngest Annie ever (unseating Sirota) in the second national tour. She toured the country for four years, sang "Maybe" on "The Phil Donahue Show" and had a day named after her in her hometown of Cape May, NJ.
At 11, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty made her Main Stem debut as a young Marilyn Monroe in the short-lived 1983 musical Marilyn: An American Fable. Thirteen years later in "Life after Tomorrow," an adult Coombs says her one dream is to be on Broadway at least one more time. She hasn't made it there yet, but in the meantime she can be seen impersonating stars like Marilyn Monroe and Madonna as part of the Legends in Concert tribute show.
Shortly after Rosanne Sorrentino opened the third national tour as Annie, John Huston began casting for the 1982 film. The 14-year-old actress was told she would be too old to play the lead on the big screen, so she ended up accepting the role of the bossy orphan Pepper opposite the 10-year-old Aileen Quinn.
Having learned what not to do when in charge of children from countless nights taking orders from Miss Hannigan, Sorrentino (now Kavanagh) is now a middle school principal on Long Island.
Aileen Quinn was an understudy in the original Broadway production of Annie before Oscar-winner John Huston cast her in the first film adaptation of the musical in 1982. As she told Entertainment Weekly, at just 10 years old it was probably a good thing that she didn't realize how legendary her director and costars — Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan and Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks — were.
As a teenager, Quinn joined a young Helen Hunt in Disney's slightly creepy movie-musical based on the Grimm Brothers' classic fairy tale "The Frog Prince" and then went back to Broadway in 1999 to play the double role of Tootles and Jane in the 1999 revival of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby. After joining touring productions of Peter Pan (Tootles/Jane), Fiddler on the Roof (Chava) and Saturday Night Fever (Annette), Quinn moved to Los Angeles where she now fronts a rockabilly band aptly named "The Leapin' Lizards." They will release their debut album in 2015.
After the smashing success of the original 1977 production, Martin Charnin, Thomas Meehan and Charles Strouse decided to write a sequel to little orphan Annie's story. Their follow-up called Annie Warbucks toured the West Coast in 1992 with plans to open on Broadway, but after an investor pulled out, they settled for Off-Broadway with Kathryn Zaremba in the lead role.
After receiving glowing reviews for her performance in the generally well-received new musical, Zaremba had some success on TV with recurring roles on the short-lived 90s drama "Sisters" and the last season of "Full House." She then left the soundstage for a career as a textile designer and illustrator, working with Rachel Antonoff and Jonathan Adler before founding the Washington D.C.-based Kate Zaremba Company.
Joanna Pacitti has become more famous for not playing Annie than for playing her. The Philadelphia native won a competition, sponsored by Macy's, to become the next star of Annie as the lead in the musical's first Broadway revival in 1997, but after she got bronchitis during a pre-Broadway tryout tour, the 12-year-old was permanently replaced by the eight-year-old Brittny Kissinger. Although pint-sized Kissinger went on to open the show on Broadway, America rallied around Pacitti, whose family sued the show's producers and settled out of court. Barbara Walters did a special about the scandal, and Pacitti made appearances on "Good Morning America," "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and "Sally Jessy Raphael."
Pacitti went on to pursue a career in music and, like her early years, there have been a lot of ups and downs. As a teenager she was signed to A&M records and can be heard on the "Legally Blonde" film soundtrack. After releasing a solo album "This Crazy Life" in 2006 and going on tour with Sheryl Crow, Pacitti was dropped from the label. She turned to another singing competition and auditioned for the eighth season of "American Idol," but because of her connections with the music industry, Pacitti was disqualified after the Hollywood round. Currently the recently married Pacitti can be seen at various theatres around the country as the co-host of "Dancing Pros Live" — a touring "Dancing with the Stars"-type show where audience members vote on the winner each night — with Alan Thicke.
The eight-year-old Brittny Kissinger became the youngest actress to play Annie on Broadway when the producers of the 1997 revival decided to replace Joanna Pacitti with Kissinger during out-of-town tryouts. On Broadway The New York Times said Kissinger lacked "sparkle" and after only 239 performances (compared with the original's 2,377) the production, which also starred Nell Carter as Miss Hannigan and John Schuck as Daddy Warbucks, closed. Kissinger headed out on tour with the show, but has yet to make it back to Broadway. Back in her hometown of Ballston Spa, New York, Kissinger self-released an album of mostly covers called "Whispers" in 2003 and joined her older brother Zac in the local folk scene. Their last band on record was called Happy Balky and the Good Livin'.
Although Sutton Foster played a variety of small, no-proper-name parts like Dog Catcher and A Star to Be in the 1997 Broadway revival of Annie, she's had leading lady written all over her since her days growing up in Augusta, GA, where she starred as Annie in a production at her local theatre, Augusta Players.
Foster has continued to charm audiences and Tony voters alike with parts like Millie Dillmount in 2002's Thoroughly Modern Millie, Reno Sweeney in the 2011 revival of Anything Goes, Fiona in Shrek the Musical, Janet Van de Graaf in The Drowsy Chaperone and Inga in Young Frankenstein.
Charlene Barton and Sophie McShera
In 1998, after the first revival of Annie opened on Broadway, another production also directed by Martin Charnin opened on the West End featuring a British cast. The lead role was shared by Charlene Barton and Sophie McShera.
Barton went on to be a fashion journalist and is currently the womenswear editor for the London department store Marks and Spencer, while McShera is still in the spotlight playing kitchen maid-turned-assistant cook Daisy Mason on "Downton Abbey." McShera will also make the leap to the big screen next year as one of Cinderella's evil stepsisters in the new film based on the fairy tale starring Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother.
Morton beat out 3,000 young girls to play America's favorite orphan alongside Broadway stars like Victor Garber, Alan Cumming, Audra McDonald and Kristin Chenoweth in Disney's 1999 TV movie directed by Rob Marshall and produced by the people behind the current NBC Live! musicals: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
Following her well-received TV debut she was cast in several more made-for-TV movies and a horror film called "The Thirst" in 2006. In 2011 she was seen alongside the original Broadway Annie: Andrea McArdle in a musical called Greenwood at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Now, Morton is back in her hometown of Gonzales, LA, where she's teaching drama at Ascension Christian High and recently got engaged. She and McArdle are still Facebook friends.
In addition to the Broadway and touring productions of Annie there have been countless regional stagings of the family-friendly musical. Rising Broadway bombshell Taylor Louderman kicked off her career at just 10 years old when she starred in the Ozark Actors' Theatre production of Annie in Rolla, MO.
Eleven years later Louderman made her Broadway debut in 2012 as head cheerleader Campbell in Bring It On: the Musical and earlier this month the actress was beamed into 9.1 million homes as Wendy in NBC's "Peter Pan Live!" opposite Allison Williams. Even though she was busy rehearsing for NBC's now-annual live TV event, Louderman still made time to slip on a different kind of red wig for this spoof "Frozen" sequel.
As the result of an open call audition, Westchester native Marissa O'Donnell was cast in the 2005 touring production of Annie. In 2007, after traveling around the country twice as the beloved orphan, O'Donnell landed back in New York where the show played for four weeks at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden with Kathie Lee Gifford in the role of Miss Hannigan.
The next year O'Donnell made her Broadway debut in Shrek the Musical. The then 15-year-old played the teenage version of fellow Annie alum Sutton Foster's Fiona. In 2011 she starred in the film "Peace Love and Understanding" alongside Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener. Now O'Donnell is currently studying for her BFA in Musical Theatre at Pace University, while still making time for industry readings and appearances at 54 Below and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
The curly black-haired Crawford was chosen to play Annie in the musical's most recent revival in 2012. It closed at the beginning of last year, but Crawford barely had time to hang up her wig before she was onto the next big thing. This Christmas she'll star as Red Riding Hood in Disney's highly-anticipated movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. With costars like Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Anna Kendrick, it's safe to say that this Annie has been adopted by Hollywood.