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.
(Photo by Tracy Whiteside/thinkstock.com)
1. Your teacher asks you to freestyle at the end of class. What’s your go-to showstopper?
A. A huge shimmy followed by a big body-roll
B. Time steps, pullbacks and wings until your taps nearly fall off
C. The quadruple pirouette your teacher didn’t even know you’d mastered
D. Sky-high extensions with perfect turnout and pointed feet
2. At lunch, you’re most likely to be surrounded by…
A. …all the boys.
B. …the girls you’ve been best friends with since kindergarten.
C. …no one. You kind of do your own thing.
D. …dance friends one day, jocks another. You bounce from group to group.
3. Your school’s big homecoming dance is this weekend. What are you wearing?
A. Something bright, flirty and spotlight-worthy
B. Whatever’s clean—everything goes great with a smile.
C. A black dress. I stick with what works.
D. Something that coordinates with my friends’ outfits
4. What’s your karaoke song?
A. “Roar,” by Katy Perry
B. “Royals,” by Lorde
C. “Born This Way,” by Lady Gaga
D. “Love Story,” by Taylor Swift
5. You’re competing this weekend. Which routine are you most looking forward to?
A. My solo. When I’m onstage alone, I don’t have to worry about showing up my teammates.
B. The small group jazz routine my friends and I have been working on all season. It’s not too complicated, but it’s tons of fun.
C. I was gunning for a solo, but it went to another girl at my studio, so I’ll be in the audience watching and learning.
D. My duo. My partner and I have tons of chemistry, and we can’t wait to show it off.
6. Your birthday’s coming up. Any fun plans?
A. I’m throwing a big party—the whole grade is invited!
B. I’m secretly hoping for a trip to NYC with my parents. But if that doesn’t happen, maybe a movie with my friends.
C. A quiet night in. I doubt my classmates even know it’s my birthday.
D. I’m planning to show off my new look—I’m getting a birthday makeover!
7. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
A. Mind reading. I’d love to hear all the wonderful things people are thinking about me!
B. The ability to talk to animals. I know they have a lot to say.
C. Flying. Sometimes you just have to get away.
D. Time travel. I wouldn’t mind reliving last summer—it was amazing!
8. What’s your best subject in school?
A. public speaking
B. home economics
9. There’s a rumor going around school—about you! How do you handle it?
A. I laugh it off and confront the big talkers. People are just jealous. Plus, all attention is good attention, right?
B. I ignore it. It’ll all blow over by tomorrow.
C. I’m embarrassed at first, but then I move on. I don’t need validation from others.
D. I cry and go straight to my friends for support.
10. You’re in a crowded convention class with your favorite teacher. Where do you stand?
A. Front and center. I want to see her, and I definitely want to make sure she can see me.
B. I lead my studio friends toward the front of the room, but off to the side where there’s room for us to stay together.
C. It doesn’t matter, as long as I have enough space to dance full-out every time.
D. My friends have usually staked out a spot by the time I get there, so I join them.
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(In purple) Karen Olivo as Anita with the Shark girls in West Side Story (Photo by Joan Marcus)
If you scored mostly A’s, you’re Anita from West Side Story.
You love being the center of attention, and you’re not afraid to show off for a crowd. The more sparkles on your costume, the better!
Lila Crawford as Annie with Sunny (photo by Joan Marcus)
If you scored mostly B’s, you’re Annie from Annie.
You’re a loyal friend, and you’re always thinking about what’s best for your entire team. You’re endlessly optimistic—if you don’t nail that tough combination today, you’ll get it tomorrow.
Nicole Parker as Elphaba in Wicked (photo by Joan Marcus)
If you scored mostly C’s, you’re Elphaba from Wicked.
You’re strong-willed, independent and willing to work hard for what you want—even if that means flying solo sometimes. Your determination will pay off in the end.
Max Crumm and Laura Osnes as Danny and Sandy in Grease (photo by Scott Gries)
If you scored mostly D’s, you’re Sandy from Grease.
You’re perky, preppy and a hopeless romantic. You’re a perfectionist in the studio, and you have big dreams for the future.
Ever since Superstorm Sandy came roaring up the east coast, people have been coming together to help those hit hardest. And the dance community is no exception. We told you about the Broadway performers singing in Times Square when their shows were canceled, and about a chance to help the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, which lost some of its sets and costumes. Now you can give back by taking a dance class!
Steps on Broadway is asking you to "step up" this Friday evening, November 16. Come to the studios and take an improv jam, tap, hip hop, flamenco, theater dance or Zumba class. All of the proceeds with be donated to New York Cares to help Sandy victims. It's a win-win for everyone!