Post image for Annie’s Toni Ann Gisondi Reminisces Playing Molly: “I have so many memories!”

Annie’s Toni Ann Gisondi Reminisces Playing Molly: “I have so many memories!”

by Maryann Pisano on January 5, 2014

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Tell me about where you grew up.

I was born in Bayonne, New Jersey.  My parents were from Jersey City.

How did you get into acting at such a young age?

My mom from the start knew that I loved music.  She said I used to rock back and forth when I was two while watching The Donny and Marie Show. (laughs)  When I was around three there was someone in our neighborhood whose daughter was in a dance class.  I actually started dance lessons when I was 3-years-old.  My dance teacher used to sing songs for fun with us at the end of class.  She told my mom that I could sing!  So, my mom asked me if I wanted to take singing lessons.  I started singing lessons when I was 4-years-old.  [My singing teacher] told me my mom that I was a little power house.  He said, “you should get her an agent and a manager.”  [My mom] had me meet an agent in Philadelphia.  Then probably four months later they were auditioning for Annie.

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Did your agent encourage you to audition for Annie?

When I did get the call for Annie, I went with a group of other girls.  I was sent away because I wasn’t tall enough.  They had a card board cut out of Annie and if you weren’t as tall as [the cut out], you couldn’t get in the doors to audition.  I was so depressed and bummed about that!

How did you get the role of Molly?

A few weeks later we got a call from the agent saying that they’re looking for the other orphans.  We went back to audition in New York and my mom remembers that there were kids wrapped around the building.  I had to audition with sheet music for “Tomorrow” and I remember [singing for two men.]  When I was done auditioning, I ran down the hallway to get my mom, and I said, “They want to see you!”  When she went into the room, the men said that they were very impressed wanted me to meet the director, John Huston.

Is there a certain memory that stands out to you the most?

I have so many memories.  I would have to say that the one that sticks out in my mind was [working with] Carol Burnett.  She was really wonderful.  There were a lot of talented adults in the film but she really took the time to spend time with every one of us.  She was really nice.  She played jacks with us and she’s very funny, as you can imagine!

How did you memorize all of those lines being such a little girl?

I was just learning to read!  My mom would go over the lines with me.  I would memorize them and put my own little twist to it.

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Today, do you still keep in touch with the other actresses from the movie?

Three years ago, we had a reunion.  Myself, Aileen (Quinn) and “Pepper” (Roseanne Sorrentino) met at Wilson Hall (Daddy Warbucks’ Mansion).  We met on those steps and it was really neat.

Do you make Annie appearances?

I do once in a while.  In my town and surrounding towns if a middle school is doing the production, they have me come and sign autographs or talk about my experience.  I’m all for it!

What did you decide to do after Annie?

My dad decided for me to take a break.  His job was here, in South Jersey.  I have three younger sisters and my parents couldn’t pursue my acting career.  I did some commercials and they called me to be the Grand marshal for the baby parade with Joe DiMaggio.  But, no regrets!  I wouldn’t have my husband I have now!  I do community theater with my girls who love singing and acting.

Did your husband know you were a famous actress?

No!  Not at all!  He found out through my sister.  He said he used to watch that movie as a kid!

Are your daughters actresses?

They do community theater and were in a few commercials each.  We were extras in a movie with Mark Wahlberg, The Happening.

What are your future endeavors?  Do you want to pursue acting?

I might get into it again.  My ultimate goal is to be a recording artist.

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Do Annie fans reach out to you all the time?

Yes, they do.  Guys and girls!  There are really loyal Annie fans.  I was just really blessed to have the opportunity.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dolores rongo January 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Beautiful Toni Ann…. we’ve watched you grow from a little girl, singing for us in your mom’s living room … to performing on the big screen in ANNIE… From those days, to the present…. you have been admired .. not only for your talent, but for the beautiful woman.. wife and mother you have become. God Bless you with that same success in all your future endeavors… always.

Dolores & Frank Rongo

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Jojo February 15, 2014 at 1:49 am

I just have to say when this movie came out my dad had bought a VHS player and we rented Annie. I watched it 26 times in one weekend! I knew every word to every part and song! I loved Aileen , of course I had her red dress… But you were so cute with your dimples, I had wished as a child I knew you as a friend. I had a terrible childhood and had wished I was adopted. I waited for years for my “real” mom and dad to appear. They never did… My real parents were mine and they didn’t believe me when I needed them. Of course I’m over it now for I’m ALOT older. I was just curious where you went! You could have been blossom! I’m glad you went with your dreams and moved on!

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Charles Geschwind February 11, 2017 at 9:17 pm

I have seen many productions of “Annie”. I especially enjoyed Toni’s role of Mollie. I think she would have made a great Annie if so was only tall enough.
I would certainly appreciate it if Toni were to send me an autographed photo with her as Mollie.
I would of course supply my physical address if contacted by email.
Thanks.
Charles

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