I saw "Annie" last night in Wallingford, CT and to be truthful, I was disappointed. All of the orphans were mediocre at best and Brittny Kissinger just didn't have the spark that I expected from Annie. I saw the Turning Point show and thought Joanna's voice seemed a lot stronger and better suited for the role. The way the entire firing was handled was cruel and seems like a media stunt that has indeed backfired. If I hadn't already paid for the tickets, I would have boycotted the show.
To those who criticize Andrea McArdle , keep in mind when she replaced Kristen Vigard in the original production, the show was in the workshop stage and had none of the publicity that has surrounded this revival. Also thought I'd mention the fact that Goodspeed Opera House also did an Annie revival this summer. It was superb !! Cassandra Kubinski was the quintessential Annie and while watching Turning Point I wondered if she had been given an audition for the Broadway revival?
The show definitely needs to be fine tuned to become a success on Broadway again, Brittny will improve but I still think Joanna deserved to play the part, she seemed to have that certain spark that makes Annie, "Annie". (3/1/97)
I am very disappointed. I had the opportunity to see Ms. Pacitti in "Annie" in St. Paul and opted to wait and see her on Broadway. It broke my heart to see her crying on Turning Point. I understand that it is the responsibility of the producers and director to find the right actress for the job, but the whole circus of the Macy's contest and the hype on the earlier Turning Point special has made this a very uncomfortable situation. It seems there are now no winners and that the sun has set permanently for the whole show. Because the search for Annie was handled as a contest and the "award" was that Joanna was to be the Broadway "Annie", she should have been allowed to play the part in New York. If the producers really though that the other girl was better, she being only 8 (Annie is supposed to be 11) would have plenty of time to take over the role as Joanna would indeed eventually outgrow the part. I think the producers made a big mistake because the majority of America is on Joanna's side. We all watched her get the part, rehearse it and blow the roof off of the theatre with her great voice. She proved to us that she was Annie and her realized dream was what we were all planning to come see in New York. What an unfortunate fiasco this has become for what I thought was going to be one of the best thing to happen to Broadway in years.
The fact that they fired her over a fax machine was as Andrea said, "ludicrous". Joanna, you are a very talented young lady. Keep your chin up and realize that you are in good company. All of this is reminiscent of the Patti Lupone/Sunset Boulevard drama. You are and always will be the new Annie as far as I am concerned. Show Business can be cruel and you have now found that out. It takes guts to stick it out in this business. Remain as strong as you seem to be. You have all my love and support. (3/2/97)
From Stephanie Kalman, Montreal, Canada I couldn't believe it when I turned on my television and heard the news that Joanna had been fired from the 20th anniversary production of Annie. I, like many others had watched the hour long special on Turning Point which documented the search for the new Annie. This special got me really excited because living in Montreal, I would get to see this talented little actress at the last stop before Broadway.
Now, however, my viewpoint has drastically changed. What was once excitement has now changed to disappointment and even anger. I realize this is show business, but why did it take the producers so long to fire her? For that matter, if she wasn't right for the part, why did they even hire her. The Turning Point special made it quite clear that they didn't really seem happy with the girls they had to choose from. If this was the case, then they never should have hired Joanna and she should never have had to go through all this. They made this big spectacle of the search for the new Annie, and then they go and fire the girl they had chosen two weeks before Broadway. This was wrong of them. I think they really mishandled the situation and I think they are going to end up paying for it. They are going to get so much bad publicity over this affair, that I think they will soon regret having made their choice. I know that I for one am no longer looking forward to seeing this production when it arrives in Montreal and I know that there are many others who share my negative views of this whole Annie affair. (3/1/97)
From Walt, New York:
This, as they say, is showbiz...
If Patti LuPone can be fired what chance do most performers have?
Parents should prepare kids for the "HARD KNOCK LIFE" of this crazy, most often unfeeling business. (3/2/97)
From Taragwtw@aol.co The nature of theater and tv is change. When someone tries out for a part, they may work, but once on stage for a time, they just don't project what is needed. It is probably true that the change was needed, but what also should be mentioned is that the producers of Annie should hire sharper casting directors as to avoid something like this.
Also, you are talking about a child who has so much pressure put upon her, that shouldn't be there at that age, so it makes the firing all the more difficult and effects her future status as an actress. (3/2/97)
From Marshall Grant:
I have to say that I am appalled by the recent decision to fire Ms. Pacitti from the role of "Annie". For crying out loud, she's just a kid! How could heartless control freaks destroy the dreams of a little girl. I hope she can get over the heartbreak that could destroy her, if she lets it. My heart goes out to you thoroughly, Joanna.
P.S.-She deserves to sue for as much money as possible. (3/1/97)
From John Maher:
Beside the fact that the producers of this show used this poor girl, and ABC Television for their cheap publicity, they are replacing her with someone who isn't nearly as good. I think the public should show these heartless creeps how they feel, and boycott the show. (3/1/97)
This is "Broadway" and if you're not good enough you get the boot, producers are not going to take a risk at losing money because they do not want to break someone's heart, you tried, you were not what they wanted. That's Showbiz, Kid. (3/197)
From David Leong, Seattle:
I find it sad that Joanna Pacitti was fired. I would think the producers would've known that she wasn't working out long before Broadway. I've worked in commercial radio for many years, and I know when a host doesn't have that particular sound that "connects" them with the listener. This has to be the same for theater. Sure actors get fired. But for a 12-year-old to beat out 2,000 other contestants, months on tour with favorable audience response, and then to all of a sudden get fired? Something's wrong here that we don't know about. But it's not our business to know about it no matter how curious we are. A lawsuit if the Pacitti family files could get nasty and will only taint Joanna's future on Broadway. She will be known as the "anti-Annie," the girl who shattered the myth of this stage character as the "all American girl." My advice to her, don't sue! Keep your faith in yourself. You won the role. You performed in it. Go for the next job and prove how good you indeed are. In the long run, you will be remembered as the girl who got fired from Annie, but went on to better things. My advice for the producers, you've got a lot of damage control to deal with. If this is a first-rate production, it will go down in history not as a great revival, but for the turmoil surrounding the leading lady.
Remember Patti Lupone and "Sunset Boulevard?" Good for London but not good enough for Broadway (I don't think so!). The actresses who played Norma Desmond after Ms. Lupone were great, but I wish I saw Patti in it. Now Annie must go on, and I wish I could see Joanna in it. I hope Brittny does well. But her performance however great it may be will unfortunately be tainted by this event. Not fair. To the producers, come clean. For your sake! (3/2/97)
From Sara Just:
I suppose I feel a little sympathy for Joanna but COME ON!! IS this whole ordeal worth $50 million? I don't think so.
Anyway, if Joanna is so great (like everyone says she is) then she'll get another role in 10 minutes. She's only 12 years and there's plenty of time for her to be on Broadway. If you ask me, she's acting like a spoiled brat. I am 14 years old and an actress. I know how hard it is to get fired (especially around this age) but Joanna shouldn't have entered the entertainment business if this is how she's going to act. I can totally understand the fact that she's upset, but I don't think she needs to go on national television to share this fact with the entire country. The person I feel sorry for in all of this is Brittny. She really has nothing to do with it, but people are still making negative comments about her voice and her acting ability. Even if she isn't very good, she can't help it that she got the role, so I think people should just lay off on her.
Well, those are my opinions. (3/1/97)
As the parent of two children (9 and 12) who watched the "Turning Point" show (over and over on video tape!), I must admit that I am shocked that the producers would exploit all the viewers (and especially the children) by changing their minds a week after the show aired on TV. It certainly seems like a publicity stunt to me and it certainly teaches a horrible lesson to all the children who were caught up in the "Annie" selection process (not just the 2000 girls who directly participated, but the millions of kids who watched and felt the suspense and excitement along with Joanna.) I personally will not take my kids to NYC to see the show with this little 8 year old, since it was pretty evident to me that Joanna had the richer, more powerful voice than any of the other girls (I picked her way before the producers made their decision!)
It's cruel to do this to her in such a public way, but it is even more cruel to disillusion all those little kids who watched all over the country. My kids certainly couldn't understand how they could do this to her, and I couldn't explain it to them. (3/2/97)
From Beth Tenser:
It seems that this is the way of the entertainment industry. Money, unfortunately, is the bottom line on both sides of this.
Indeed, it was not right in how the producers handled the case in firing Joanna. Yet, I am sure she signed her life away and the case will be thrown out of court and like the old reports say, the original Annie before McArdle was replaced and this happens all the time in this field, whether a child or adult, they are treated as equals, in hiring in firing. That seems to be the way of this entertainment field or like any job. Nothing is forever and especially set in stone now-a-days.
Most of all, I feel this whole revival of Annie was a big gimmick in getting a new generation of children involved, as I had seen it 15 years ago, and what a better way to relive your childhood, in seeing a classic, and not to mention emptying out your pockets to these people. I mean, come on, look at Star wars for instance. You add new scenes, strengthen the computer graphics aspect, and voila, lets make MORE money then before. The ANNIE people are doing just that. I love how Nell Carter said, they are ALL taking a pay cut for this show. Well, either way, they all make more then me, with that pay cut. I work just as hard and long and I will never make that much.
So, Joanna still has her whole life ahead of her and like the OJ trial of people, she will make a name for herself, while appearing on Larry King, Hard Copy, Entertainment Tonight...whoever will love to jump on this band wagon of gossip and not to mention probably getting a book deal. Nothing like milking a situation like all the other wannabe's.
She's been bitten by the bug, you'll see -- she likes that life more then just singing in her father's barbershop now. (3/2/97)
From Warren Hsu:
I would like to express my deep disappointment over the horrible firing of Joanna Pacitti and my disgust for the producers in the way and manner in which they handled the situation. What a truly bone-headed move. The negative publicity this incident has generated might already be enough to sink the show. The nationwide search and the TURNING POINT feature have gone a long way towards endearing Joanna to the public, and to these people (myself included), Joanna IS Annie. Now you have every major entertainment show running stories on how the cruel Annie producers fired a sweet little 12-year old girl. What person wouldn't feel sympathy for a teary-eyed Joanna Pacitti? And contempt for the producers who fired her just weeks before her Broadway debut...BY FAX! Now that's just plain cruel.
All I can say is, I've now totally lost interest in the show, and I know that many people have started to cancel their tickets or refuse to go and see it. Showbiz might be a tough business, but these producers have truly sunk to a new low. Shame on them. (3/1/97)
From Judy Jordan, Arlington, GA:
It seems to me that it's a bit strange that after a nationwide search, one hundred performances, the national media coverage, and less than a month from a Broadway opening that all of a sudden----"she's not working out?"! I believe that this poor child was used.
Martin Charnin saw her as the best and most developed talent he could put his hands on at the moment, but clearly recognized that her understudy had more potential, thus giving him (Martin C.) an opportunity to develop that talent over the three months on the road. Joanna was given only a very narrow physical development window. Anyone who knows anything about the development of this age girl, knows how fickle their bodies and minds can be, and how many changes they can go through quickly. It saddens me to think that anyone will do this to a child. This appears to have been a calculated move on the part of the producers of the show----use her until we get the "Annie" we really wanted, groomed. He seemed to be leaving himself an "out" when expressed his dissatisfaction with all the contestants on Turning Point.
I agree with his (MC) assessment that all of them were wrong. He does not have the definitive Annie in any of the girls he auditioned. Their voices were offensive. They all sounded like Ethel Merman "wannabe's", which is fine if you are looking for a "belter". But it is putting such a strain on the children's vocal chords that it does not sound natural and is ruining a voice that could develop beautifully.
Working with children requires time, time, time, and infinite patience, particularly when working with adolescents. The one thing that everyone seems to have lost sight of is the fact that the people who are the stars of the show are CHILDREN. That alone should negate most of the procedures that apply. Perhaps live theatre is not for children, especially in major roles. The constant pressure is too demanding.
Joanna and her family have been duped and used by a system that presents a glittering face to the world, but is brutal. Joanna, Sweetheart, if you ever have occasion to see this----"the sun will come out tomorrow",your talent will still be there, your Mama and Daddy will still love you, and you have learned some very valuable life lessons that can be used to make you a better person. Hang-in there, Sweetie. (3/2/97)
It would seem to me that the majority of people siding with little Miss Pacitti are actors (Sara Jessica/Andrea MacArdle etc.) or non industry people who understand nothing about producing a musical or play. There are two important issues at stake:
1. Artistically- The writer and director (and producer) have final say as to what and who is represented with THEIR work. There is much blood, sweat and tears poured into casting a show- IF a producer must replace an actor for any reason it is usually a horribly difficult situation and no one looks forward to it. While it is hard on an actor to be replaced, it is a reality and it happens ALL THE TIME. Ms. Pacitti should look to another career if she thinks she can sue a producer on a whim. As for it being a "contest", it was indeed, but it does not give her immunity. She is not a foreign diplomat.
2. Financially - Since this is a commercial production, there is a financial commitment to the producers/investors to deliver the very best show possible. Often actors feel entitled when they are in a part and sometimes forget where their opportunities and pay come from. Obviously there was no maliciousness against Pacitti (presumably she wasn't behaving like Myra Carter) and her termination was unfortunate but just.
MY heart goes to the producers- but let's face it- this publicity will SELL TICKETS, so they can't be too angry. (3/2/97)
From the clips I've seen and reviews I've read, it appears that Joanna Pacitti did a credible job in the role of Annie. Based on that and her very public primetime "hiring" on ABC's "Turning Point" show, it seems unfortunate that she lost the starring role in ANNIE. Even more unfortunate is the alleged way she found out about the decision (via fax to her agent). I am sure it would be tough for a 12 year old to handle (or, for that matter, a 42 year old).
With that said, however, the last time I checked, producers of multi-million dollar musicals have the right to do most ANYTHING they want to make their show the show that they want it to be. This includes hiring and firing and changing and rewriting and tightening and lengthening and the like...... That's what "previews" and pre-Broadway tours are all about.
Though it is a shame that a 12 year old lost her starring role in a nationally -- this is Broadway and that happens. She is not the first nor the last to lose a job while starring in a Broadway bound musical. Oh, but Joanna is SUING the producers, 'cause she "won a contest" to play Annie on Broadway, you see...
Perhaps her supporters should also be suing on behalf of Amy Powers, who "won a contest" to write the SUNSET BOULEVARD lyrics -- only to lose out on the chance. Or Peter Karrie, who "won a contest" (read: audition) to star in SHOGUN and who was canned soon after. Or Josie DeGuzman, who was replaced in one musical (NICK AND NORA?) and then was the "replacee" in another (GUYS AND DOLLS).
Let's also not forget the well known Roger Moore who was politely let go from ASPECTS OF LOVE or the unknown James Weissenbach who made it onto the MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG poster but not to opening night....... And, then there was the original Annie -- herself replaced by Andrea McArdle, who now vows not to see this new production.
Yep, Joanna, you're the first one, aren't you...
I might feel for Joanna a bit more if she had not chosen to appear on talk shows "sans parents" but with her AGENT and LAWYER. Wow, that's a classy move...
And, I would be a bit more compassionate had said agent and lawyer not decided to sue the producers of ANNIE for $50,000,000. Faye Dunaway and Patti LuPone have also "won contests" (SUNSET auditions AND an Oscar and a Tony.) They had stronger cases to file lawsuits and walked away with millions. But the collective $4 or $5 million these well known and established stars received in their settlements is peanuts compared to the ridiculous sum Joanna Pacitti's lawyer is asking for (based on her future earning potential of "$1,000,000 a year for 50 years). Joanna, honey, dream on...you are casting "poison" now...
Tainted or not, Joanna Pacitti might be just the Annie the show needed: She's 12 and seemingly is grown up enough to carry a show night after night. Her replacement is just 8 years old. That's a big difference.
Sure, there have been plenty of 8 and under Annie cast members. They've played orphans, who are on the stage a fraction of the time Annie is...
There are also many 8 year old TV and film actors. They don't work "live." They get as many takes as they need to get things right. I truly wonder if an 8 year old can carry a live show night after night after night. 8 shows a week - 400+ shows a year.... Heck, most 8 year olds can't even remember to wash their hands once a month...let alone remember dialogue, lyrics and staging...
Guess we'll find out soon... (3/2/97)
From Larry Mullen:
Annie is a show that I dearly loved and enjoyed when it first opened. I did manage to Andrea, but Dorothy was out sick the first time I saw it. Thru the years this show has been done to death. And much as I would like to again see this show on Broadway, after this incident, I think I'll pass. Martin Charnin is a "one hit show" director. I saw the second Annie in Washington with Dorothy Louden. Good that someone had the sense to close that one. Never did get to see Annie Two, but I got the cast recording. No memorable music on there. It seems that whenever Martin is looking for a hit, he trots out Annie.
And I think this time it may have really backfired on him. Whether or not they have the right to fire her, will become immaterial to the public. All they will see is there evil men against a 12 year old child. (3/2/97)
From Matthew Alan Maser, Catawba College, North Carolina:
I had no idea that Joanna had been fired. It just goes to show you that Broadway will do anything to make a buck and they won't care what they do to anyone. I'm an actor myself and I can't believe that they would fire their star three weeks before the Broadway Previews. I know that if I were Joanna and her parents, I would be suing the pants off of the producers of the show.
When she was chosen to be "Annie" she won the role, and part of that meant that she got to play "Annie" on Broadway. Now they are taking that away from her. As I said before, I'm an actor myself and I know that it's every actors dream to make it to Broadway. I would like to respond to schreur who said the following, " I think Pacitti is acting like a spoiled brat. The producer says she wasn't working out, end of story. Now she's throwing a temper tantrum because SHE isn't going to be the next Annie. GET OVER IT!! move one with your life. If she's only 12 there will be plenty more opportunities for her to star on Broadway. Plus I don't think a 12 year old should portray Annie wasn't our red-haired friend supposed to be 8 or 9? I think Pacitti should move on and even if she gets compensation it shouldn't be overwhelming amounts of money. C'mon -- $50 million for not getting to wear the wig?"
I'm sorry that's not the point. She worked very hard to become an actress and she won out over 2000 over girls. Ok, so she might be 12 years old, so she might have more chances, but that's not the point. So you're telling us that we should tell our children to work hard at what they do. But look what happens, she works hard, and now she has it taken away. I'm sorry to say to you, that's wrong. It's like telling someone that they have won a million dollars and then take it away from then saying to the person, it wasn't working out??? So what do we tell our kids. "Hon, you really worked hard but it doesn't matter because they can do what they want?" NO!! If anything should happen, another story should be done to tell what happen and to find out answers. If anyone important reads this, CALL ABC BACK. I think they would love to do a story about this. (3/1/97)
I simply cannot believe all the stuff I just read. Does anyone honestly think this had ANYTHING to do with the producers? This was Martin Charnin. Plain and simple. The producers carried out his wishes (they probably agreed, but who knows) but I'm certain they did not initiate the firing. Martin Charnin is well known for firing people. I saw Ms. Pacitti in the show. She sang too loud, and didn't have enough variety in her performance. Well, excuse me, she's an obviously talented girl (talented enough to win the part and perform it) so where's the director???? I don't believe he couldn't get Joanna to do what he wanted. Unfortunately what he wants (another letter stated this already) is a carbon copy of the original production, and Mr. Charnin I'm told even gives line readings to people. It is well known that he and Nell Carter were at each other's throats when she came into the show. So, don't just blame the producers. It's their production and they had to carry out the firing. But you can be sure the orders came from Mr. Charnin. (3/1/97)
I believe that Joanne Pacitti is a spoiled brat and is to old to play the role of Annie. She obviously does not have the spirit of the part as evidenced by the temper tantrum that she is having. I feel her parents are also at fault. How can anyone justify suing for $50 million for being fired for a Broadway show. I believe these firings/hirings occur all the time but PROFESSIONAL actors and actress take it in stride and know that tomorrow is another day and these things happen. Joanne grow up and stop whining like a two year old! (3/2/97)
To read earlier responses, see Playbill Poll: Your Views of the "Annie" Firing" in Theatre News