Many little girls dream of appearing in the musical "Annie," but few actually get to do it. Those who made it said it was the most glorious time of their lives.
Two "Annie" productions have thrived on Broadway, 20 years apart. "Annie" launched the careers of such stars as Alyssa Milano, Molly Ringwald and Sarah Jessica Parker. Now a new documentary reveals for the first time what the girls in the show experienced offstage.
Sarah Jessica Parker remembered what growing up as Annie was like. "There was a house of prostitution halfway down the block that was not in any way hidden. You know, we roller skated around there quite often and taunted, you know, some of the hookers."
Kathy Raicht, who was also in "Annie" on Broadway, recalled her offstage life at the time. "We went to Studio 54 constantly. I must have been there three times a week."
When these girls' careers as "Annie" orphans ended, some of them said they felt as if they'd entered retirement.
"The younger ones are coming to take your place and you're 12, you know. It's not like you're getting downsized at 50 -- you're 12," said Nicole Francis, who played an orphan.
Others have experienced the hard-knock of life since leaving the show.
"I've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I think that that whole "Annie" experience for me was a manic episode," Ana Lovelis said.
"I had, you know, managers telling me that I gained too much weight, so I became anorexic," Robyn Finn-Moosey said.
One former Annie, Julie Stevens, has co-directed a new documentary called "Life After Tomorrow," which tackles a tough question: What's it like to have the most extraordinary experience of your life take place when you are only a small child?
"It's hard, because you spend a lot of time trying to recapture that feeling again, or recapture that experience. I have my own definition of what success is. And unfortunately, it happened very young." Stevens said.
Stevens' efforts to figure out her own post-"Annie" life led her to form a Web site linking "Annie" alumnae, and she later joined with filmmaker Gil Cates Jr. to make the documentary. Together they interviewed dozens of "Annie" actresses.
"The most consistent thing that these women had in common ... was their love for the show, regardless of how it affected their life, regardless of whether they were successful or whether they were hanging on by a thread," Cates said.
In the documentary the women share memories. "My career before ... my 15th birthday was probably my mother's because she was so completely involved in it," Senta Moses said.
So how many of these Annies had stage mothers?
"All of them. They had pressure. They had responsibility. They were getting paid," Cates said. "And then there were a lot of girls that were supporting their families that we interviewed. They made more money than their father."
Allison Smith said that even as she was playing Annie on Broadway, her mother would rent her out to play Annie for special events and private parties.
"There are people who call up and say that their child was getting bar mitzvah'ed and they would pay $15,000 to have, to have real live Annie come to their child's bar mitzvah and sing one or two songs. And it felt a little bit like a freak show. There were gnarly episodes like that. Like, I really don't want to sing at the KFC in Suffolk County," Smith said.