I don't believe I've ever written a letter to the editor, but after reading your story on the "Annie flap" (Back Stage, 3/7/97), I feel I must. I won't comment on the Equity rule question or any of the brouhaha over the firing, but I do wish to take strong exception to several things that were said about Nell Carter in the penultimate paragraph of the story.
First of all--whatever your "other observers" may feel--none of the responsibility for Joanna Pacitti's replacement rests with Nell. In fact, much of that decision rests with me. I didn't feel it appropriate to consult with Nell, and did not do so.
Secondly, Nell Carter is in no way a "nominal star." Nell is a star, and would be in any show she chose to star in.
Thirdly, [Pacitti's publicist] Ms. Parenteau has proved herself remarkably adept at imagining all sorts of things said by all sorts of people in this matter, but none of us expect Nell to "get nailed by the New York critics." For that matter, we have no idea what the New York critics are liable to say about Nell, or the show, or Brittny [Kissinger, Pacitti's replacement], or anything else. As all producers must, we will simply wait and see. We never tried to buy Nell Carter out of her contract. We didn't want her to leave, and I'm confident she doesn't want to leave either, since she's simply wonderful in the part.
As far as audience response is concerned, I've seen Nell perform in every tour city, and in all the Broadway previews. Each time, Nell was greeted with star applause, received cheers and great applause after her songs, and got a standing ovation in the curtain call. To suggest the audiences were more enthusiastic for Joanna Pacitti than for Nell is simply ludicrous.
Needless to say, I've learned a great deal about the press in the last few weeks. It's absolutely amazing how often an "observer" or "an employee of the producers" or "a source close to the production" turned out to supply information supporting the position of the Joanna Pacitti camp. We undoubtedly--and perhaps mistakenly, in retrospect--fed into this by refusing to speak to the press when the story first broke. Live and learn. At this point, though, I strongly suggest that many of the issues about audience reaction, Brittny's talent and performance, and whether Nell Carter is indeed a star can quickly and easily be resolved by coming to the show, seeing the performances, and gauging the audience's reactions to them.
Then you'll know what you're talking about.
Timothy Childs, Produc