Being Annie: Lilla Crawford on Her Starring Broadway Role
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.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.