NEW YORK (AP) — Two 11-year-old actresses who have played orphans and been understudies in the Broadway revival of "Annie" have been picked to permanently take over from Lilla Crawford in the title role, a step up that has left them beaming.
Taylor Richardson and Sadie Sink, both natural redheads, will share the role of the stage's most famous redhead beginning July 30. Crawford's last performance will be July 28.
"It's very exciting," said Sadie, who has played Annie before but not on Broadway. "It is a big step from an orphan to the title role." That's a sentiment that her smiling co-star agrees with: "Definitely."
Taylor, an actress from Richmond, Va., and Sadie, originally from Houston, have both understudied the role of Annie, and both have gone on as the orphan Duffy. "Annie" is their Broadway debuts.
"There's a big difference between going on for one of the orphans and going on for Annie," said Taylor, who has played Annie about 80 times so far. "There's more songs, more dancing, more time being onstage that you have to be prepared for. So I guess you have to work extra-hard when you go on as Annie."
Based on the beloved comic strip that debuted in 1924, the musical is the heartwarming tale of the Depression-era orphan girl who finds happiness with a grouchy millionaire and a lovable dog.
Producers have decided that each girl will play Annie for four of the eight-shows each week. The girl not playing the title role will go on as Duffy, the biggest of the orphans who memorably stomps on Miss Hannigan's foot in Act 2.
Sadie has previously been in productions of "The Miracle Worker" and "The Secret Garden." Taylor was in a regional production of "Honk!" Both played Susan Waverly in "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" when they were 8.
Both adore musical theater and harbor dreams of one day playing either Elphaba in "Wicked" or Christine in "The Phantom of the Opera." They eat dinner together and go out for fun. When they were offered the part, they had to keep it a secret, but each would knowingly smile to each other.
Taylor has a particular tie to the part of Annie: Her grandfather was adopted by parents looking for a child with red hair. "I thought that was really cool that I had that connection once I found out," she said.
The mothers of both girls — neither who have red hair — are bursting with pride but shy away from taking credit for producing singing, dancing and acting prodigies.
"There are definitely some people in both sides of our family that are musically gifted and talented. I am not," said Tiffany Richardson, Taylor's mom, with a laugh. "It skipped me and went to her. I'm OK with that."
Though clearly talented, Sadie is not the first in her family to be on Broadway. One of her three older brothers, Mitchell, played a part in "Elf" this winter — the reason Sadie came to New York. Sadie also has a younger sister with curly red hair who likes to sing.
"The red hair and the talent? I don't know," said Lori Sink, Sadie's mother.
Tiffany Richardson has already seen her daughter take center stage on Broadway as Annie, and said she and Sadie's mother will soon have a special bond. "I can't wait to share that feeling with Lori because it really is a special feeling," she said.
"Annie" first opened on Broadway in 1977 and ran for almost six years, fueled by songs including "It's the Hard-Knock Life" and "Tomorrow." A film version was released in 1982 with Aileen Quinn playing the star and a TV version came out in 1999 starring Alicia Morton.
The musical, which features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, is directed by three-time Tony winner James Lapine and choreographed by Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler.
Crawford, who has been in the show since its first preview in October, will have played the role close to 300 times. Other actresses who have had their start in "Annie" include Sarah Jessica Parker, Molly Ringwald and Sutton Foster.
In other "Annie" news, Anthony Warlow, who has been playing Oliver Warbucks since the show began, has extended his contract with the production through Dec. 8. Faith Prince begins playing Miss Hannigan on July 19.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits