Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Like "Annie" said later, after the final curtain and the standing ovation had welcomed her back to a Washington that remembered her when, there is no knocking success. Or, put another way, stardom.
"How can it be bad?" asked Kathy-Jo Kelly, 12, newest in the title role of the smash Broadway musical that left town a little over a year ago for NYC and the bigtime of fame, fortune and a full share of tomorrows.
Or, as Shelle Monahan, 12, who plays Pepper to Kathy-Jo's Annie, put it, from the song of nearly the same name, "It's not the hard-knock life."
And so it wasn't, Thursday anyway. Big and little groupies alike jammed into the National PRess Club ballroom after the show's opening at National Theater to proclaim "Annie" everybody's baby at a cast party arranged by the theater's board of directors.
"Haven't I seen you someplace before?" asked Daddy Warbucks, also known as Norwood Smith, all but pinching himself over his good fortune to have gotten the male lead in what some critics call the best musical in 20 years.
"Here's my adopted daughter," Smith went on and for a minute you couldn't be sure he was talking about his and Annie's on-stage relationship or their off-stage one because, as Shelle Monahan put it, "we're all just one big family."
Kathy-Jo Kelly and Boy (known to his fans as Sandy, the dog) arrived later than the rest but found plenty of autograph hounds to go around. Playing the role of an orphan in the original production of "Annie," she had the lead more or less down pat before she ever got the role in the third production company.
The comparisons were inevitable. Like the original Annie, Kathy-Jo Kelly's voice has a hoarse quality ("We sound a lot alike," she allowed.) But the similarities ended there because "I think all the Annies should be different, with different line readings and different expressions."
Norwood Smith said the original Daddy Warbucks, Reid Shelton, played the role "like a big teddy bear while mine comes on like a gangbuster from Hell's Kitchen with nothing to live for except monty, until he meets Annie - then he becomes an old softie."