Barbara Walters updates her February report on ABC's "Turning Point" Thursday, July 17, 9 PM ET, of the behind-the-scenes audition and rehearsal process of bringing the 20th anniversary revival of Annie to Broadway.
The original broadcast focused on the hunt for a new Annie, which resulting in the hiring of Joanna Pacitti. But the airing of the broadcast wound up coinciding with Pacitti's firing from the show.
Annie lyricist and director Martin Charnin allowed "Turning Point" "unprecedented" access to shoot auditions of hundreds of young girls vying for the lead role and featured parts as orphans in the $4 million musical, now at New York's Martin Beck Theatre.
In interviewing those chosen, their mothers, and the original Broadway Annie, Andrea McArdle, "Turning Point" offered a front row seat to Annie well-publicized talent search and its rocky aftermath.
"Being Annie is probably every little girl's dream," said McArdle in the original broadcast. She returns in tonight's broadcast to comment on the firing and subsequent events. Ironically, McArdle was also a last minute replacement to play Annie in the original 1997 production of the show. In the February "Turning Point" Pacitti says, "If I don't get it, I don't get it. It's just an audition. It's not like they're going to kill you if you don't get it...I never, ever thought that I'd be on Broadway!...I never thought my dream would come true."
It didn't. She was fired after only 106 national touring performances, and received nation-wide front page headlines. Producers said she couldn't act well enough. Pacitti was replaced by seven-year-old Brittany Kissinger, who's interviewed by Walters on the July 17 update.
In the July 17 "Turning Point," McArdle is critical of the producers. "These were crazy adults acting desperately," she says, "because something wasn't how they thought it should be."
At the time of Pacitti's firing, Dorothy Loudon, the original Annie's villianess Miss Hannigan, said, "I feel terrible for Pacitti. When someone's let go, it's every actor's nightmare. It's never happened to me, thank God, but she must be shattered. It's a terrible age to have that happen to her."
Loudon lived through a similar Annie crisis at Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House, where the original show debuted 20 years ago when the original actress chosen to play the lead was let go and McArdle was promoted from the chorus.
She told Playbill On-Line, "That wasn't quite the same because it was done in rehearsals. We hadn't gone anywhere yet. The little girl was wonderful but she really grew up. The Pacitti thing wouldn't have been so bad if they'd made the switch earlier, when the show was really on the road. Why did it take so long for them (the producers) to find out they weren't pleased? They've been doing this for months." <
Pacitti, who's playing (through July 20) the title role at Raleigh's North Carolina Theatre.
Keeping Up with the Fired:
* Kristen Vigard, the first girl to play Annie in the original production 20 years ago, was fired early in the run and replaced by Andrea McArdle.
* Flash forward to 1997: Joanna Pacitti, as a result of a nationwide search is chosen to play Annie only to be fired before her sun came out on. Parents, Joe and Stella Pacitta, filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
* Zappa, the original dog playing Sandy, was replaced with the current Cindy Lou.
* Christiana Anbri, 6 (who plays Molly), and Melissa O'Malley, 8 (Kate), will not have their contracts renewed when the contracts expire July 26.