The 'Annie' pack |


The 'Annie' pack

The sun will come out again for everyone's favorite orphan when ABC revamps the Broadway classic for sweeps.

Yes, the century’s last version of Annie is a TV movie from the same people who brought us Bette Midler in Gypsy and Brandy in Cinderella. No, Britney Spears won’t be belting ”Tomorrow” while Cher scowls as Miss Hannigan. ”The selling point on this one is Disney and Annie,” says exec producer Craig Zadan. ”So we were able to cast people that we loved.” Thus ABC’s The Wonderful World of Disney film, airing Nov. 7, features actors high on awards (including Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan and Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks) but low on Q ratings. ”I sorta knew who Kathy Bates was,” says the newest Annie, 12-year-old Alicia Morton, who was appearing in Les Miserables on Broadway when she auditioned. ”Then they told me that she was in Titanic, and I knew her right away.”

For Bates, the draw was the chance to be a chanteuse — albeit a nasty one. ”I studied singing in New York years ago, but I’ve never done anything professionally,” says the actress, who trained with a vocal coach for a month. ”I gotta tell ya, I wasn’t terrified. I felt prepared.”

Audiences will have to prepare for ABC’s total orphan overhaul: The producers decided to eliminate Annie’s trademark candy-apple red dress and electrocuted crimson hair. ”We wanted to strip all the comic-book elements out,” says exec producer Neil Meron. ”So we said, ‘No fright wig.”’ But the most important difference between this and Broadway’s most recent Annie, he adds, has nothing to do with appearances: ”We’re proud that there was not a day where our Annie was going to be fired.”