Scott Simon's Essays
Fired from Annie
Feb. 24, 2001 -- The Annie of the comic strip and Broadway musical was a shy, curly red-haired orphan girl. This week, a court case was scheduled in which a former Broadway Annie, or almost Annie, is suing the people she and her parents hold responsible for breaking a little girl's heart. They will try to mend that break with more than a little money.
Joanna Pacitti, who's now 16, is suing the Macy's Department Store. In 1996, the store sponsored a contest to cast the young actor who would play Annie in the Broadway revival of the musical. Ms. Pacitti, who comes from a musical family in Philadelphia, won the part in open auditions. But Ms. Pacitti was replaced when the show was in previews. It happens. The producers said she was a wonderful singer, but her acting was not as wonderful. After all, she was only 12. Maybe not even Dame Judi Dench was a great actor at age of 12.
Ms. Pacitti's lawyers contend that replacing their client was like offering a diamond ring as a raffle prize, then taking it back. Macy's and the show's producers say that they promised the winner of the auditions would receive the starring part in the revival, but making a change before the show opens is always the right of a producer. The revival closed after just 238 performances anyway; that also happens.
Four years after this trauma, Joanna Pacitti seems to be doing well professionally. She is now 16 years old and marginally better known than most older actors who are waiting tables in off-Broadway restaurants. She's been consoled on air by Oprah and Rosie. She has a Web site. She sings beautifully and is reportedly negotiating a record contract.