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Watching “Annie” With My Daughters

As I alluded to in this post, our gals are slightly obsessed with Annie right now. They’ve watched the movie (in 45 minute increments) probably three times over the course of the last two months. They sing “Tomorrow” constantly, and never quite correctly.

I also got the Original Cast Recording out of the library a few weeks ago — I know, I’m a glutton for punishment, but what can I do? It makes them happy — and they have listened to it approximately 42 times. I now know all the words to “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” and suspect most of our neighbors do, too. Elsa likes to blast it like it’s gangsta rap. (Da bitch and I ain’t got no turkey for our stuffing — why don’t we stuff you, muthafucka!)

And just last night, Elsa asked me what it was, exactly, that Miss Hannigan was drinking all the time in the movie. I told her it was bathtub gin, and explained that she’d made it in her bathtub. “Can we make it?” Elsa asked. Which led me, just out of curiosity, to see if I could find a recipe. Google never fails. (As it turns out, bathtub gin wasn’t actually made *in* bathtubs, but with water from the bath tap.)

But I digress.

As much as I am kind of extremely sick of Annie, I also kinda don’t mind. See, I have a bit of a soft spot for Annie. (Anyone who’s read my novel can attest to this.) My parents took me to see it on Broadway when I was a kid, and my brother and I also watched the movie ad nauseum on VHS. (We recorded it off of HBO, natch.) And I, too, listened to the Broadway recording ad nauseum, on vinyl.

But that’s not all. Thing is, I was sort of a big deal when I was a kid. I was no Ricky Schroeder or Soleil Moon Frye. But I was a semi-professional child actress. I did a few commercials, and tried out for dozens more. My audition song was always “Tomorrow” or “Maybe.” (As was the case for probably 90% of girls my age. The poor casting agents.)

I was in a couple of professional theater productions, too, one of which was Annie. I played Molly — the youngest of the orphans. And if you ask me, I was way better — not to mention cuter — than the girl who got Annie, who didn’t even have freckles. But I was only 9 and she was 12, so they thought she could handle the role better. Their loss.

So, I associate Annie with the dreams of my childhood; when I experienced the thrill of being onstage, and thought maybe I’d do it for the rest of my life.

The dream faded as I approached adolescence, I got braces and got gawky looking, as adolescents are won’t to do, which sort of put my “career” on hold, as far as commercials, anyway. But the bigger issue was that that I started feeling like a freak because of my “career.” Part of it was just feeling tired of the grind – schlepping into the city, going to rehearsals after school and at night, etc., while other kids were home playing with their Cabbage Patch kids and watching Punky Brewster.

And then came general feelings of middle school angst and desire to conform: As if it wasn’t bad enough being a straight-A student and a late bloomer physically speaking, I was also an actress. (Freak!!) There were a few bitchy rich girls in particular who contributed to that feeling. (I like to think that now they are living dull, emotionally unsatisfying, unexceptional lives.)

Realistically, I probably would have left showbiz eventually anyway; While I like being onstage, I don’t have quite the hammy, uninhibited, out-there kind of personality that it takes to be a pro. I’m much more comfortable strutting my stuff from the comfort of a keyboard.

Still, I think back fondly on the days when I was that little girl, belting out “Tomorrow” under the hot lights. And there’s a bit of bittersweetness in there, too, when I think about how I abandoned my dreams of stardom.

I even found myself getting choked up at various moments throughout the movie the first couple of times the girls watched it. I felt like a goofball; I couldn’t possibly explain to them why I was crying while a bunch of kids were singing and dancing to “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”

But then, later in the movie — the part where Rooster and Lily have just made off with Annie, and Daddy Warbucks stands watching them go, singing, “And maybe I’ll forget how much she meant to me, and how she was almost my baby….”  while I was getting teary, I looked over at Clio, and she was on the verge of tears, too. (“It’s his fault!!” she yelled angrily, pointing at the screen.)

Such is the power of Annie.

 

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