Musical Theater

Lilla Crawford gets a kiss from Sunny. By Joan Marcus

It’s definitely not a hard-knock life for Lilla Crawford. At only 11 years old, she’s singing, dancing and acting her heart out on a Broadway stage—for the second time! This L.A. native made her Broadway debut in 2011, playing Debbie in the closing cast of Billy Elliot. Now she’s donning a red wig to star in the title role of the Annie revival, opening at the Palace Theatre on November 8. Dance Spirit chatted with Lilla just a couple weeks after she started rehearsals.

Dance Spirit: What was your reaction when you found out you’d landed the role of Annie?

Lilla Crawford: I was really, really excited. I thought, “Wait, what? Really?” It was this moment of disbelief. It was Friday the 13th when I found out, so now I think that date is lucky.

DS: Who was the first person you told?

LC: I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone at first—I had to wait three weeks. I went on the “Today” show to announce it, and then we put it on my Facebook fan page. So everybody kind of found out at once. My friends were calling me like, “Oh my gosh, really?” They were sad to see me leave L.A., but they were so happy for me. I know they’re all going to come see me perform.

DS: What have rehearsals been like so far?

LC: Building the show in rehearsals has been so cool. Every day I learn something new, and I’m excited to do the show from start to finish. All the scenes are fun, and the other kids are my best friends. We met for the first time during the audition process, and they’re all so nice. Also, working with the dog who plays Sandy is great. Her name is Sunny, and she’s the cutest. We’ve been practicing together a lot.

DS: Do you have a favorite part of the show?

LC: I love the whole show! I’ve seen the movie a million times, and I saw the play when it toured to L.A. I don’t really have a favorite part, but I like the number “N.Y.C.” That one’s fun to perform.

DS: You made your Broadway debut in Billy Elliot last year. So far, how is Annie different?

LC: The rehearsal process is definitely different. With Billy Elliot, I was being put into a show that was already running, so I started rehearsing by myself, then with the other Ballet Girls, and then finally with the rest of the cast. But I only rehearsed with the whole cast once before I went on. For Annie, we’re learning it all together because it’s an original cast. I’m excited because I’ve never done previews, a tech week or an opening night before. I think my favorite part will be tech week, when we start to rehearse onstage with all the cool set pieces and costumes.

DS: Imagine yourself in 10 years. What will you be doing?

LC: I’ll probably still be acting because I love it so much. There are so many parts I would love to play, but my dream role would probably be Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. That would be a really fun character.

That's right! And we all know that dancers really love their dogs. So what better way to celebrate #NationalPuppyDay than by awww-ing over these adorable photos?

For the last couple of years, Sacramento Ballet has combined its Nutcracker run with a pet adoption event, which is a pretty genius marketing strategy if you ask me. Cute Claras and chubby puppies? Yes please.

(Photo via Sacramento Ballet)

Are Griz and Cali, the furry friends of New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, the most famous ballet dogs? Maybe...and they're definitely two of the cutest.

(Photo via @misstilerpeck on Instagram)

American Ballet Theatre dancer Sarah Smith's dog Hudson looks like a giant pillow and I want to squeeze him.

(Photo via @thedogist on Instagram)

Here's Liza Minelli gazing lovingly at the best friend anyone could ever ask for.

(Photo courtesy Dance Magazine archives)

Tweet us (@Dance_SpiritMag) a photo of you and your dog and tag #NationalPuppyDay!

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Did you know that a lot of your favorite dancers have very special four-legged friends? While you probably won’t see these adorable dogs onstage alongside their dancing moms and dads, DS found out that plenty of them do perform their own pooch-style pirouettes and pliés!

Griz (left) and Cali (courtesy Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild)

New York City Ballet principal dancers Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild

“Cali is a Maltipoo, and she’s my little stuffed animal. She comes to class without a leash and just lays next to my spot at the barre.” —Tiler

“Griz is a toy Australian shepherd. He’s got much more energy than Cali—he wouldn’t just sit there during class, so when I bring him he’s on a leash. But when center happens, he gets so stimulated by everybody moving that he stands up and tries to say hello.” —Robert

“Cali’s been onstage before by accident, when I was rehearsing The Sleeping Beauty. In our studios, we have TVs upstairs that show what’s happening on the stage. I was watching once during a break, and suddenly was like, ‘Whose dog is onstage?’ Then I realized it was Cali. The dancers were doing bourrées in a circle, and she was jumping up on her hind legs, trying to join in!” —Tiler

Bandit (courtesy Aaron Albano)

 

Newsies’ Aaron J. Albano

“Bandit, my purebred beagle, is 2 1/2 years old. We have this trick we call ‘barre’: I put my arm out and he puts both front paws on it, like he’s standing at the barre. I’ve even started to get him to do a tour en l’air. He doesn’t quite jump all the way around yet, but he’s getting there.”

 

Mila with Jamie and Jamie's boyfriend, Bryan Tanaka (courtesy Jaime Goodwin)

 

 

Shaping Sound’s Jaimie Goodwin

“Mila has a lot of tricks up her sleeve. One of my favorites is her downward dog pose. Ever since she was a puppy, she would sit with her chin on the floor and her bum in the air. Sometimes she even falls asleep like that…and then slowly tips over! She’s also extremely flexible—she sits in her straddle and jazz splits a lot.”

 

 

 

Kamille and Max (courtesy Kamille Upshaw)

 

Flashdance: The Musical’s Kamille Upshaw

“My shiba inu, Max, is usually pretty chill, but sometimes he can be a bit of a prima donna—he’ll lie near my feet and paw at my leg until I rub him. I haven’t brought him to class or rehearsals because I think the music and people running around would be too much for him to handle. But occasionally I can get him to stand on his hind legs and do a spin.”

 

Ashley with (L to R) Minion and Atreyu (photo by Marilyn Abalos)

 

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Ashley Murphy

“My boyfriend and I have two dogs: Atreyu (a mixed breed) and Minion (a Yorkie). I bring the dogs to work some days because our rehearsal schedule can be taxing, starting at 10 and lasting until 6:30 or 7. Having the dogs around helps—they bring a smile to everyone’s face.”

 

 

Audrey with (L to R) Smoke, Smalls, Jett and Jojo (courtesy Audrey Douglass)

 

Commercial dancer Audrey Douglass

“My housemates and I have four dogs: a 9-year-old Maltese/poodle named Jojo, an 8-year-old Maltese/shih tzu named Smokey, a 2-year-old affenpinscher named Smalls and a 7-month-old Maltese/poodle, Boots. We have a small dance studio in our house where we occasionally rehearse or choreograph, and the dogs will watch us. They’re always waiting for us to do choreography on the ground, so they can lick our faces. At least one of the dogs makes an appearance in every choreography/rehearsal video we’ve shot in that room.”

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