Arielle Tepper Madover isn't just a Tony award winning Broadway producer, she's also a mom. Like all of us, she puts a lot of value on her kids' emotional development, and she recognizes how important self-esteem is, especially for young girls. That's why when Madover (pictured left) decided to bring Annie, the first musical she'd ever seen as a child, back to Broadway, she got to work at reinventing the casting process for child actors, putting the experience of auditioning and a sense of accomplishment ahead of competition and fear of rejection.
"I was so excited to do this," says Madover. "Once we started talking about casting, a self esteem initiative was the next step and it all came together really nicely."
Being a positive force in the casting world goes hand in hand with the world of Little Orphan Annie, a little girl who's compassionate optimism and plucky courage has made her an iconic character in musical theatre.
"I fell in love with Annie when I was eight," Madover told me. "It was my first show. I want all the kids out there who have any attachment to the show to feel welcomed by this production. That's what I love about our self-esteem initiative. It says, 'This is about having fun and being yourself. This is about you and we want to get to know you in the process.'"
What that has amounted to is an innovative casting process that utilizes the most recent online audition practices along with multiple open calls in various cities, making it possible for virtually any kid to take a shot at playing Little Orphan Annie.
"You never feel like you've seen everyone," says Annie's casting director Patrick Goodwin of Telsey + Company. "It's a big event. It's a revival of such a well-known show. We want to see every kid we possibly can, not just the kids we already know from productions we've already cast them in."
Since Annie herself is somewhat of a Cinderella story, it's exciting to think that this extensive search might uncover some brand new talent. When a girl between the ages of six and twelve visits the show's website at www.AnnietheMusical.com, she's given information on auditioning in person at an open call or online. Parents can help their "Stars to Be" record a video audition that includes a song (not from Annie) and a story about who she is or something she likes to do.
Potential orphans can view a video of Arielle Tepper Madover (pictured left) talking about her search for tomorrow's Annie today. Online auditioners are advised to be themselves, relax and have fun! Open call attendees are given a self-esteem audition handout that helps them celebrate the audition itself, not the possibility of booking a job. The handout encourages adults to recognize how much courage and confidence it takes to walk in and audition, and girls are advised not to rehash the audition, but to feel proud of what they put out there and to move forward.
"We went to a well known child therapist and asked for help with this. We didn't want to assume that we knew how to do this on our own," says Madover. "We went to the experts for advice on how to find a way to talk to the kids and the parents....We want the kids to feel special and proud of themselves for auditioning. I feel so strongly about this being a good experience for everyone."
All of this was good news for eleven year old Megan Spector (pictured left) of San Diego who's been performing in youth groups and local theatres since she was five. Megan's unique video audition impressed casting directors enough to win her an invitation to attend a live audition in Los Angeles. Megan would love to be cast in the show, but the experiences of making the video and getting to audition in Los Angeles were a thrill on their own.