Sally Struthers
Sally Struthers
Sally Struthers has been one of America's most beloved actresses for more than 40 years, thanks to such Broadway shows as The Odd Couple and Grease, and such television series as Gilmore Girls and All in the Family, for which she won two Emmy Awards for her work as Gloria. In recent years, Struthers has worked consistently in regional theater, including her Ovation Award-winning work in Cinderella, as well as the Ogunquit Playhouse's recent production off Legally Blonde.

On October 14, she returns to her favorite role -- that harangued harridan Miss Hannigan in L.A.'s Cabrillo Music Theatre's production of Annie. TheaterMania recently spoke to Struthers about the part, doing her show Sally Struthers - Off Script and On the Record on October 17 as a benefit for the theater, and her beginnings in show business.

THEATERMANIA: Why do you enjoy playing Miss Hannigan over and over again?
SALLY STRUTHERS: Since I am known for being someone who spends so much time trying to help disenfranchised children around the world, this part is such a great 180 for me. And it's the best part a woman can play on stage. She's a maniac and that allows me to be as zany as I can be at any moment. I can do any facial expression or anything I want with my legs -- the thing about Hannigan is that she's always ready to explode.

TM: How do you think your Hannigan is different than other people's?
SS: I have never seen another production of the show since the original Broadway production with Dorothy Loudon, who was the quintessential Hannigan! I will say that, unlike a lot of women in comedy, I am not afraid of making myself ugly. If anything, I leap over the line.

TM: Every time you do the show, you meet a whole new group of young girls as your co-stars. Do they know your other work?
SS: I find quite often that before I show up for rehearsal, or soon after, their parents have forced them to watch All in the Family, or maybe their older sister has told them about Gilmore Girls. But they get most excited when they find out I'm the voice of Pebbles.

TM: Once you become Miss Hannigan, though, do the girls get scared of you?
SS: They're never scared of me. Most of them are as tall as I am; this Annie is actually looking me in the eye. And they know I am a comical mean person. Most of all, I love children, and I always say children and animals are the first ones to detect if you're not fan. I actually think of myself as the oldest child in the room.

Rob Reiner and Sally Stuthers in All in the Family
(© CBS)
Rob Reiner and Sally Stuthers in All in the Family
(© CBS)
TM: On the 17th, you are doing a one-woman show as a benefit for the Cabrillo. Have you down this show before?
SS: I did a one-person show once in Laguna, and although it went over great, I just didn't want to do it again. I like being with other people on stage; I think being all by myself up there is boring. But I couldn't say no to this benefit. I'll just tell a couple of jokes, sing a couple of silly songs written by my mother, and the rest of the evening I'll let the audience pick my brain. I have no trouble talking, and I do have a good memory. An hour will go by quickly!

TM: Well, just to help out, what should people pick your brain about?
SS: I hope they ask me about All in the Family, what Rob Renier was really like, what funny things happened in the rehearsal hall. They can also ask me about my first job in show business.

TM: What was your first job in show business?
SS: My actual first job was dancing on a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass special with Goldie Hawn. I also did a lot of commercials -- I did one for Ponds Cold Cream, I played a lemon, I was even a toe-dancing hamburger in a canned beans commercial.

TM: I know you love being in Los Angeles, but would you come back to New York to work? SS: I would come back in to New York in a heartbeat -- especially if they would let me play Miss Hannigan in this new Broadway revival of Annie. I really should throw my name in the ring. I love being home with my daughter and my dogs, but I have so many friends in New York. I get here and I can call 150 people. It's party central when I'm in town!