She's Gonna Like It Here: Meet Broadway's Annie, Lilla Crawford

By Melissa Rose Bernardo
17 Nov 2012

Crawford in Annie.
Photo by Joan Marcus
Of the Annie job prospect, she explains, "When I found out they were going to hold auditions for Annie I was really, really excited, and I didn't care what part I would get. I just wanted to be a part of this show somehow." Like any self-respecting theatre fan, she was familiar with the 1977 Martin Charnin-Charles Strouse-Thomas Meehan musical. "When I was about six or seven I saw a tour that came to California. Then I saw it again…. One of the tours came back the year after that. And then I've seen the movie a lot," she says, referring to the much-derided yet much-beloved 1982 Albert Finney-Carol Burnett-Ann Reinking big-screen adaptation.

Fun fact: Crawford has appeared in Annie previously — in another all-kids production. "I played Bert Healy, the radio announcer," she says. "It was really fun, 'cause I got to sing 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.'"

"My first audition" — Crawford stops to think— "June [2011] was my first audition for Annie. It was about a week or two when they told me that I got a callback. And after that I got another callback. And after that one, I had the dance callback. And after the dance callback, [laughs] I had another callback. Then after that callback it was the final callback." Lapine actually saw Crawford "very early on," he says, confessing, "I kind of fell in love" — but, he adds, no decisions were made until the very end.

If all that auditioning sounds arduous, trust her, it wasn't: Crawford describes the process as "really, really fun." Lapine's secret: "I make it fun for myself, and then it's usually fun for everybody else," he says. "What I really wanted to do was get to know the kids — just piddle around, play games, talk to them. I didn't 'direct' them. I tried to keep the audition on their level."

The news of Crawford's casting broke at the end of April 2012, and the next thing you know, there she was at the Tonys, posing for photographers and performing in the opening number with host Neil Patrick Harris. "I love to put on really fancy dresses," she says with a girlish grin. "I don't know why—it's just one of my things!"

As for putting on the red wig, "I really like it," Crawford declares. "I mean, it's kind of like my hair now." She giggles again. "Yeah. I think I look cute."

(This feature appears in the November 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)