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"No, no, no," she said, waving away the notion she might be remotely tuckered. "I'm actually really, really excited. I've been performing ever since I was two, and I always sing and dance around the house — but professionally I've been doing it since I was seven. It's such an honor to be playing this role. It really is a dream come true."
"Yes, working with children and animals is on my list of dreams," cracked Katie Finneran, as good a contemporary choice for Miss Hannigan as there is. She has Tonys for making grand comic spectacles of myopia (Noises Off) and dipsomania (Promises, Promises), and her character here as more than a touch of both.
"I'll tell you there was a real challenge trying to figure out how to make it my own — tell her story from a fresh perspective because I loved Kathy Bates, I loved Carol Burnett, I loved Dorothy Loudon. I loved those Miss Hannigans so much, and I was trying to come up with a way that was my take on the role, and that was difficult."
Her big trick is delivering her punchlines in a throaty, whiskey-husky voice, possibly left over from the outrageously idiotic owl sounds she made in Promises, Promises.
Her favorite moment in the show isn't even hers. "I love when Lilla comes down the stairs, going back to her supposed parents. She's wearing her beautiful new coat, and she takes it off and is just wearing her old sweater. I love that moment. James has done a lot of beautiful, subtle things like that. He's so smart. He had a very specific vision of what this was to be, and I think we came up with something fresh."
Bernadette Peters, she with the cascading red ringlets, led the big parade of celebrities — as well she should (she was Charnin's first choice to play the Annie role — and then he opted to go the moppet route). Peters was fresh from filming an episode of Season Two of "Smash," in which she plays Megan Hilty's stage-star mother.
The eventual choice to originate the Annie role — the strong-lunged, Tony-nominated Andrea McArdle — was dutifully in attendance, looking great at 48 and having already racked up a couple of Hannigans in stock herself. Also from the 1977 production: Shelly Burch, who started out as Star-To-Be and is now Mrs. Charnin.
Unlike most openings, but not at all inappropriate, the Palace was crawling with kids. That Championship Season's Jim Gaffigan and wife Jeannie Noth even outfitted two of their five, Marre, 8, and Katie, 3, in Annie's signature red. ("They love Annie. We saw a preview.") Meehan's pint-sized posse included two grandchildren: Sasha, 6, Emma, 4. Other celebs with tots in tow: Blankenbuehler and wife Ellie came with a gaggle of two (Sofia and Luca); producer Arielle Tepper and hubby Ian Madover with their Sasha; actress Andrea Burns with hubby Peter Flynn and their Hudson; producer Daryl Roth with three perfect young ladies; and set designer David Korins and wife, director Carolyn Cantor, with their Stella.
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