So, I have a question.
I know that Annie has always been played by a white (caucasian) person in pretty much all the major American productions I've ever seen/heard of. And I also know that 'Annie' has been performed in many other countries like Brazil and Australia and Japan, where she would be of a different race - but, here in America, we have people from all over the globe, right? It's not like everyone in America is white anymore. So, why can't Annie be black (or african american, if you prefer)?
Maybe it's a historical thing - like, a black girl in the '30s wouldn't have even been taken into an orphanage... But we know THAT'S not true because black girls have been casted as orphans before in 'Annie' productions (ie - 'Annie' 1999: Duffy) - so why not a black ANNIE?
Different versions have been made of other classics, where people of races other than white are featured - like the Cinderella movie with Brandy in it, or 'The Wiz' instead of 'The Wizard of Oz'. So, unless Annie's race in the story has to be white because of political reasons, I'm thinking another movie of 'Annie' should be made with a black girl in the lead role.
Now, not being black myself, I guess I shouldn't really be talking. I don't know if someone has come with my idea before me or anything (I bet they have, though), and I'm certainly not trying to offend anyone (some people really do prefer the term 'african american').
I just wanna hear what you all think!
I'm sure the main reason for this is to make Annie look as much like the comic book Annie as possible. In the comic book, she is white and has red hair. If you notice, most professional production won't even cast a girl who is a little tan; she must have a pale complexion so that the red hair will look natural. I'm sure if Annie wasn't so iconic as a red-head, a black girl (with black hair) could easily fit into the role. And it's also important to mention that there have been black actresses who have played Annie. The first one caused a lot of controversy, but the director decided to go with the most talented child rather than typecasting.
There has been at least one African American child cast as "Annie," that I know of. Her name is Adrienne Warren and she is still performing. She just closed in the National Tour of "Dreamgirls." If you search this forum, you will see the articles and photos I posted of Adrienne as Annie.
First of all, Annie was never performed in Brazil. I live in this country and I can tell that.
Second, Annie is now running in Spain and there are two girls playing Annie - one of them is black and doesn't wear a wig coz she has a curly hair in "Annie style" already. The other is white and wears a red wig. And I believe black girls don't get cast as Annie because of the comic strips, as Natalie said...Annie's main characteristic is the red hair.
TA-DA! Not only HAS there been, but I gain to venture that she was probably not the first and will NOT be the last. In this production, Annie was double-cast and she was one of the two. Quite frankly, she was nicer to me and I thought the better actor/singer than the other. It was always a pleasure for me when it was a “Dana” show.
i guess the reasons are both historical (but as soon as there are african american orphans in the cast, this reason doesn't work anymore), and the will to stick to the comic strip.
but then, some black people do have natural red hair, and curly, annie-like, so i think it should change and it will propobably end up changing, there's not really a absolutely strict reason that would prevent Annie from being black, IMO. Except the historical reason which i can't really argue on since i'm not a historian (plausible for that rich mister Warbucks to adopt a african american child in the 30s ? i don't know enough about us history to answer that)
However it is a real issue, and a real problem. It's more of a choice to be made i think; should one favor the historical coherence, type casting side, eventhough it discriminates black girls (but then when you cast for show boat, it's obvious that there are roles for the whites and roles for the blacks. but it's different, since the show is ABOUT blacks and whites. and i think there are much more parts out there made for whites than for blacks), or should the race factor be ignored unless it really can't be (like in show boat or hairspray) ?
although, as you all pointed out, there have been black Annies, i don't think it would be wrong to say that an african american girl who wants to try out for Broadway or National Tour doesn't really stand a chance to be cast as Annie (do you agree ?). is it fair to favor historical factors and type casting over equality of chances ? Would it make the show less rich, less plausible, if those factor be ignored ? maybe if there were as many leading roles for blacks than there are for whites, nobody would wonder that (i only think there aren't as much, so correct me if i'm wrong)
anyway, this is one of the reasons i 've always loved the fact that Elphaba is green. everyone stands a chance to play her!
Good points made on both sides of the question. I do think Natalie is right that, for the time being, a Broadway production is going to want to match the predominant vision of the character; and that there are some roles that are, in effect, "closed" to actors based on race, gender, and other factors. You couldn't really have a "Mommy Warbucks" without really changing the show, for instance (or, heaven forbid, a Mr. Hannigan [Rooster excepted, of course!]).
Ultimately, though, I don't think Annie ought to be one of those "closed" roles. As others have said, neither the character nor the show are about race. The argument about looking like the comic strip is a strong one, but I don't think it should ultimately trump casting the best young actress you can - besides, as Jamey's experience shows, you could still make-up a black actress in the "tradtional" way with lovely results. But until all "ANNIE" casts start mandating opaque white contact lenses for everyone, an appeal to "how it looks in the comic strip" only gets you so far! I think the musical has become very much its own thing - as a comparison with either Gray's strip or the later versions reveals - and any of its roles should be open to actors of any race.
I suppose much of this is moot now that Willow Smith's version is on the way (I, for one, am looking forward to it). I will only add that I was lucky enough to get to see Dallas Theater Center's 2010 revival and revisal of "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman" - an earlier effort from ANNIE's creators, of course - and included in the cast was the first African-American Lois Lane in Superman history (apart from one very well-meaning but weird comic book story in the 1970s). So far as I could tell, this did not raise a hue and cry among anyone; it was a fact that was noted in press coverage, but then everyone moved on. So that's another example (let alone the Miss Farrell of the 1999 TV movie, as Laura pointed out) of a character with a clear traditional visual "standard" from the source material; but since the character's race simpy isn't a defining quality, it can be open to actors of any ethnicity.
I love the comic strip, and for that reason, I think that at least the character of Warbucks and Annie should be faithful to that, not only somewhat in appearance/race but also in their characters themselves. I really hated the 1999 Disney movie where Annie steals from a streetcar vendor. TOTALLY out of character. I disliked the way VIctor Garber handled Warbucks-not true to character.
So following that, while I see nothing "wrong" with a Black Annie, I do think it shifts things around maybe a little too much from where the show came from, especially as far as Broadway. I do think regional productions have a little more "play" to do things their own way and I think a Black Annie would be fun to see in that kind of setting. For Broadway though, I think people expect Annie to be Annie and the show to be very close to what it's always been....maybe I'm wrong...
Equally, I would hate to see a white version of Porgy and Bess. There are just some characters that kind of are what they are.
I will say that I have always been extremely bothered and totally perplexed as to why there is not ONE BLACK CHILD in the entire movie of Annie from 1982. They hired what, 100, maybe more to shoot those orphanage scenes and they're ALL WHITE! This was 1982 for goodness sake! Did nobody find that kinda racially insensitive on the part of the film makers? I haven't watched Lights Camera Annie in a long time, but are there any black kids at ALL in any of those auditions?
Wow. It's been many years since I've seen the film (one reason I'm excited for the Blu-ray release), but that is pretty astonishing. Progress on such issues is slow indeed.