Rosanne Sorrentino Kavanagh has been in the unique position of playing both Annie and Pepper. Rosanne spoke exclusively with Celebrity Parents about Annie, being in the spotlight, and how her life with her husband, Tom, and daughters Bridget, 14, and Sarah, 11, would make a fabulous reality show!
Photography: Gabbeli Photography
Hair & Makeup: Cindy Ha
Photographed on location in Daddy Warbucks Mansion (Monmouth University, New Jersey)
How did you get involved in Annie?
My mother took me to see the play when I was 9 years-old. I loved it so much. I was sitting there in the theater, and I said to her, “Mom, I’m going to be Annie!” My mom said, “Yes, okay!” to keep me quiet. After the play ended, I tormented her until she let me record myself singing. We went to a recording studio, and the tape got sent to a friend of a friend, who knew the composer of Annie, Charles Strouse. I got called in to audition, and I was cast as Annie in the 3rd national tour. It was a very quick process.
So your mom did this to keep you quiet…
And now it’s blowing up in her face! I remember being on the front porch begging her to let me do it. I said, “Please! I’ll never ask you for anything again.” I didn’t realize how much of a sacrifice she was going to make for me. We traveled the country for 18 months. My sister was only 6 years-old, and she traveled with us sometimes.
How was the experience?
Amazing. I have so many great memories; the things I got to do, the people I met. I met President Jimmy Carter and Robert Goulet! I have the keys to several cities, too.
Why did you stop performing in the tour?
I was getting a little big, a little developed! [laughs]
Annie had boobies! [laughs]
Yes, and she couldn’t have them. That was the worst part. I didn’t want to stop but I had to. After my final performance, I came off the stage, and I was so sad. I remember they took off my wig and dress, and put it on the new “Annie”. They took her out into the lobby and people were taking pictures of her. They were saying how great her performance had been, and I wanted to say, “Hey, that’s me you just saw!”
Now, I understand they were on a time crunch, and it had to be done, but it still hurt. At that time, kids in show biz were not the norm; we were treated like little adults, and expected to behave like that.
So how did you become Pepper in the film version of Annie?
I always knew I would audition for the film. I wanted to be Annie, but realistically, I was 12 now and I was too big. I auditioned for Pepper, and the casting director said, “You’re too pretty to be Pepper. Mr. Houston (the director) won’t cast you as Pepper.” I got the role so I’m not sure what that means! [laughs]
What was it like filming Annie?
It was a very different experience. There’s lots of down time; lots of sitting around waiting. In that respect, it was completely different from the stage, where you’re on all the time. The movie was fun in that there were lots of kids to play with. And the actors were wonderful. Carol Burnett was phenomenal. We were waiting for a scene to start, and I told her how much I loved The Carol Burnett Show, and in particular, her character Eunice. Well, we started improving doing Eunice. Even at 12, I knew this was so cool and a great moment.
There was another time when we were filming “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” and I was sick. There was nowhere for me to rest, and Carol gave me her trailer to rest in. She would come in and feel my forehead. She’s a top notch person; I can’t say enough good things about her.
I have to ask: In the opening scene, when you step on Robin’s head, was that on purpose?
The first time was an accident. They liked it, though, so I had to keep doing it! I felt badly for Robin.
Was it hard for you to go from being Annie on stage to being Pepper in the film?
It was. No one helped me to transition. It goes back to treating child stars as mini adults. As a child – and even now – I wasn’t shy, and I didn’t like being in the background. It was really hard going from being front and center to standing behind everyone else. I was one of the tallest orphans when we were filming, so I was always in the back.
That, ahem, is not the case now. You are quite tiny.
[laughs] Yes, I was the tallest then, but now at 4 foot 11 inches, I’m the shortest. I think Aileen [Quinn] and I are the same height, and Toni Ann, who played Molly, is taller than all of us! I pretty much stopped growing after filming Annie!
What was life like after Annie?
I went back to junior high school. I kept auditioning for awhile. I auditioned for Kate and Allie, the film Author! Author!, and it seemed that it always came down to me and Ari Meyers! I did off-Broadway shows, too.
At the time, my parents were getting a divorce, and there was no one to take me back and forth into NYC on auditions. I decided to just be normal and go to high school and stop auditioning.
How was that?
It was great. In high school, I was in the band and I was a cheerleader. I went to the prom; it was wonderful. I went to college, and I met my husband, Tom, there. We were taking a class together, The Art of the Novel. Every day his seat got a little closer to mine! I read every single book, wrote every single paper, and got a B+. He didn’t read one book, BS-ed his way through his papers and got an A! He loves telling that story, especially since I was an English teacher for 14 years!
That’s hilarious! Are you still teaching?
Yes, but now I’m the school’s computer consultant, which means I help teachers integrate technology into their lesson plans. It’s great working directly with my colleagues. I just finished my 17th year teaching.
And now you’re a mom to two girls.
Yes, Bridget is 14 and Sarah is 11.
How is it having a teenager and a pre-teen? My daughter is only 6; I can’t imagine how it’s going to be in the future.
epare yourself! Stock up on wine and get a thick skin because everything you do is wrong.
[laughs] Have the girls shown any desire to act?
Not really. And honestly, I don’t know if I could do what my mom did for me. My mother was a stay at home mom; she had no idea of the magnitude of what she was getting into. Just getting Bridget and Sarah to their sports and all of their activities is crazy.
Do you miss acting?
I do miss it. I really love theater, and I would love to start there again. I just love to perform. I do think I should have my own reality show, though! Between my two girls, my grumpy husband who’s stuck in the 1950’s but is not even that old, and the crazy dog; it’s ridiculous around here.
I bet the show would do very well.
I think so, too! A reality show would be a real hit and this time my boobs would be an asset!
Photos courtesy of Rosanne Sorrentino.