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Annie and Sandy

Confessions of a Broadway Casting Director: Patrick Goodwin for ‘Annie’

Finding just the right actors for any musical is tough, but when you're scouting for an iconic role played by a child, things really get interesting

You won’t believe the lengths that casting directors go to in order to find the right talent– or how far some parents will go to have their kids considered. We talked with Patrick Goodwin of Telsey + Company, who cast Annie, to get the details on why it’s more complicated to work with kids. He filled us in on the unique program the company created to boost the self-esteem of budding actors and other juicy details. In the end, 11-year-old Lilla Crawford won the lead role. You won’t believe what we found out …

Patrick Goodwin

Patrick Goodwin, casting director

… how long it takes to find the right talent

“With Annie, the kids’ casting process took just about two years. We did a nationwide search with open calls in Los Angeles, Orlando, Austin, Chicago, Omaha, San Jose and, of course, New York. We also launched a video-submission campaign where parents could send self-taped videos of their kids for Annie and the other orphans in the show. It was a different way of throwing a wide net for the casting process; it was quite successful as several final callback candidates came from taped auditions. It was a challenging, fun and rewarding experience.”

… the special efforts casting companies will take to protect kids’ self-esteem

“One of the things we did with Annie was a self-esteem campaign in alignment with all our open calls and auditions. It was the idea of Arielle Tepper Madover, our wonderful producer, who made connections with Discovery Girls magazine to make the audition process all about building the girls’ confidence and making them feel proud of their accomplishments. We had self-esteem liaisons at our open calls to talk with the girls about their audition preparation and also gave them the opportunity to write about their experiences and send those words to Discovery Girls. It was a really great way to make the audition process more than just about booking the gig, but instead, about growing artistically and being proud of themselves.”

… what piques the interest of casting directors (hint: it’s not being showbiz ready)

“The first time I saw Taylor Richardson (who now plays Duffy [one of the orphans] and understudies the role of Annie), I had a gut feeling that in one way or another, she would be in the show. I didn’t know if that meant she’d play Annie, or one of the other orphans, but it was so clear she was exactly what we were looking for. She was so honest and specific in her choices during her auditions, was extremely well prepared, and yet at the same time was still a real kid—not a polished, showbiz version of one of the orphans we were searching for. Even now, every time I see her on stage, she still manages to surprise and impress me, as do all the kids.”

… just how far a little humor will take you

“The funniest thing that happened in the casting process of the show was when Emily Rosenfeld, who plays Molly, showed up to our very first open call in New York with a shirt that said ‘ADOPT ME.’ And we did. Looking back on that, I laugh every time.”

Annie kids

The orphans on set (Photo: Joan Marcus)

… to what lengths families will travel to give their kid a leg up

“When traveling the country, I found it fascinating to see how hard all these kids work on dance classes, voice lessons, acting classes, and everything else to make their dream of being on Broadway come true. The level of commitment is truly remarkable and families sacrifice so much to give their kids the opportunity to audition. I’m always reminded of one girl who sent in a taped audition (her tape was great, too). She was invited to final callbacks in New York. She was from Hawaii and her parents had never been toNew York City. When they learned that she would be invited to callbacks in New York, the family booked airline tickets without a second thought,  flew all the way here for two hours of dancing/reading/singing callbacks. They never hesitated for a second to make the trip, and that to me is a testament of how supportive families are of their kids’ dreams.”

… how much is invested in potential actors before they’re even cast

“We knew from the very beginning that we wouldn’t be double casting the role and that one girl would be playing eight shows a week. That’s a huge undertaking for any girl who is 9 to 11 years old, let alone one that would play one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre. The trick to finding just the right combination of a voice of steel, an honest actress, and a fantastic dancer laid not just in widening the casting net, but in working with the kids to get the best out of them during the callback process. Our director, James Lapine, was terrific in that he took the time to do work sessions with any candidates that he felt had the potential to grow artistically. The process was never just about a ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ after the girls auditioned, but instead, it was about finding girls who had potential.”

… to what lengths (and camps), Telsey + Company went to find the right Annie

“Aside from our many open calls, we also scouted arts camps, school summer programs, arts community groups and dance conventions to see as many girls as possible.”

… that there’s a whole separate process for casting the animal roles

“The incomparable animal trainer Bill Berloni was given the task of casting our dog and understudy dog, and I’m still jealous that I didn’t get to take part in that process!”

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