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Little Hopefuls Mob `Annie II' Tryouts


THE sun will come out, not tomorrow, but any day after Oct. 2 for the girl destined to become the next Little Orphan Annie on Broadway. That's the day of the final ``Annie'' cut: three winners from each of the New York, Washington, and Los Angeles auditions for the lead role in ``Annie II: Miss Hannigan's Revenge.'' Here in Washington, where the Broadway-bound musical will have its world premi`ere Dec. 26 at the Kennedy Center Opera House, a platoon of little girls sang and tap danced their socks off in day-long auditions. Eighty six girls, many of them wearing traditional ``Annie'' red bows in their hair, lined up hopefully in the big blue and white rehearsal room, with its mirrored wall and grand piano. They were trying out for director-lyricist Martin Charnin. He was looking for someone with the qualities of the original Annie: an endearing moppet like the cartoon character, one with an Ethel Mermanesque voice and lots of Moxie.

She didn't have to be a redhead (only a dozen or so were), but she did have to be able to sing ``in a chest voice.'' Mr. Charnin at one point muttered ``with these tiny rib cages, it's hard to get a chesty voice'' as he coaxed little rivulets of sound out of some of the smaller, shyer girls.

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Charnin, a grey-bearded man in a tan cardigan and chinos, marched the girls out in quartets, each to sing consecutive lines of the ``Annie'' hit song ``Tomorrow'': they sang over and over, endlessly, all morning about how ``...the sun'll come out tomorrow/Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun.'' And then in the afternoon, in pairs, they sang about how when they think of a day that's gray and lonely, they just lift up their chin and grin and say ``Tomorrow, Tomorrow/ I love ya' Tomorrow/ You're only a day AWAY (high note).''

No one seemed to mind singing or hearing ``Tomorrow'' sung roughly l20 times in a day, least of all the parents. A few of the mothers coached their daughters from the sidelines, using body English for emphasis on the notes and steps. And a few had painted their small lillies: ``Somewhere underneath all this Revlon is a person,'' said Charnin as he took a towel and wiped the mascara, lipstick, and foundation off the angelic face of one blond contestant.

The girls got a real workout with dance numbers from choreographer Danny Daniels, starting with simple steps, then on to ``Tea for Two,'' and after the first cut, to complicated tap numbers that made the group look like a pint-size ``Chorus Line.''

While the girls were waiting to hear about that cut and the 30 winners chosen for the afternoon session, their nervous energy erupted. They broke out in dance like popcorn popping, and with the tappers, like firecrackers exploding. When the girls chosen were announced, there were puddles of quiet from the losers, a few tears but mostly tight faces in what for many was the first big rejection in life.

Some of the winners were already little troopers, like elfin, blond Christen Tassin, l0, of Spartanburg, S.C., who is playing Baby June in ``Gypsy,'' or 10-year-old Danielle Davy with her long red pigtails from Haymarket, Va., who's played ``Annie'' and even ``Annie Get Your Gun'' in local theater.

The girls and their families had come to Washington from Pennylvania, Kansas, Indiana, and even Texas. Redhead Tiffany Clark, ll, wearing a red-and-white striped outfit, had gotten up with her family at dawn to catch the plane, from Jacksonville, Texas, three hours from the nearest airport.

All four girls will go on to auditions in New York before the ultimate Annie is chosen, to be announced soon after Oct. 2.

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