I came to know that show inside and out…I had every song on that album memorized. I went back to see it the next year when Sarah Jessica Parker moved up to the role of Annie. In fact, we got to the theater real early that day and the orphans along with Annie herself were in the street, playing ball before the show. We called Sarah Jessica Parker over and she posed for a picture with us…my cousin, Diana, Lisa, Heather and I. Sarah and I were the same age. That picture was blown up into an 8x10 and framed.
When I went to the show the first time, my uncle wrote to Ms. Ghostly (Miss Hannigan) ahead of time and asked to get my picture taken with her. I have no idea where he came up with the idea that he could write her, but he did and mailed it to the theater in New York. She evidently got it, wrote back and said we were welcome to go up after the show and meet her in her dressing room. She was so nice. When we got there she still had her stage makeup on with her hair hidden under a scarf and was only dressed in a robe. She obviously didn’t care about us seeing her like that. I had already missed Shelly Bruce but she had all the cast members autograph a program for me. They addressed it “To Carrie—“ and everything. It was awesome!
After that show I corresponded with Shelley Bruce a few times, she lived in New Jersey too. I, in my naïveté, even invited her to my next birthday party, but she “couldn’t come”. I didn’t really expect her to…it’s not like she really knew who I was, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Imagine, a Broadway star at my birthday party! I tried.
When we had tickets for the show the second time, my uncle wrote Ms. Ghostly another letter and I sent her a thank you gift for her previous kindness. She welcomed us back again. This time, when I was going down the steps backstage I saw Sandy on the landing in the stairwell. I slapped the front of my legs above my knees and eagerly said, “Hi Sandy!” And she sat up and barked! I was thrilled beyond words. Someone eventually had to come over and settle her down. Shame on me. My uncle took another picture of the two of us that day. This time she was dressed in her regular clothes and her real hair was showing, short reddish-brown, but her stage makeup was still on. Both of those pictures I had blown up into 8x10s and framed. Who knows how many other kids she befriended like that. All I know is she made me feel truly special, and I will forever be indebted to her.
The next year I started the seventh grade, and Heather moved away. I traded in my “dancing” shoes for a pair of cleats. I played soccer for at least two years, but still went to the theater every once in a while. Unfortunately I don’t think I did much more with the shows on my basement stage. Although I signed up for a gymnastics class at my uncle’s prompting when I was about 11, I quit shortly after I started because a girl named Shannon made fun of my fat thighs…she was another neighbor and she was a beanpole. I was never a heavy child, but I was always tall for my age and my feet were huge. I wore a size 9 shoe when I was only nine years old. Evidently I was not built to be a gymnast let alone a dancer. At the time soccer worked well for me.
Then, the news came that the Broadway run of Annie was coming to a close, and my uncle snatched up some tickets for me and my sisters and two other girls along with my mom to see the final performance on January 2, 1983. We got to the theater early and there was a news reporter with a cameraman outside. A group of us stood huddled together singing songs from the show in the cold while the reporter gave her story on that night’s final performance…we were so excited about being on the news, I don’t think we realized how sad the event would be.
The final performance was just as wonderful as the two I’d seen before…this time there was a new Annie, Allison Smith (she played on TV’s “Kate & Allie”). When the show was over, the stage was flooded with cast members from present and past, including all five Annies (Andrea McArdle, Shelley Bruce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Allison Kirk, & Allison Smith). I was able to get three of their autographs. The director came on stage and talked about how much Annie meant to him. It was all very emotional. I remember him saying at one point, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” That got a chuckle from the crowd. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Everyone who attended that day was invited to a party following the show, but my mother said we had to get back home, so we didn’t get to go. Naturally, I was disappointed…I was so sad to see it end.
Ever since I was a little girl Annie held a special place in my heart; I can’t explain it, but there’s just something about that show...it reminded me of a treasured time in my childhood, I guess. When the Broadway run ended on that show, so did my fantastical aspirations of musical stardom...I guess it was then, that I started growing up. It wasn't until ten years later when I appeared on a real stage in a real theater singing and dancing in a real musical, that my childhood dream began to unfold.