A star is born. NBC has announced Celina Smith will play the titular role in their live production of Annie.
The network announced the 12-year-old beat out tons of other young hopefuls in the nationwide search for Annie Live! The musical, which features iconic songs such as “Tomorrow,” “It’s A Hard-Knock Life” and “Little Girls,” follows orphan Annie as she is taken in by a wealthy man in New York City.
“It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of the talented young ladies who have played Annie before me and I can’t wait to start this journey,” Smith said in a statement.
Though the musical premiered on Broadway in 1977 with Andrea McArdle in the role, Aileen Quinn is perhaps the most famous Annie actress after starring in the 1982 hit movie. Quvenzhané Wallis also attracted attention in the most recent remake in 2014 opposite Will Smith. Additionally, Ashley Johnson starred in 1995’s Annie: A Royal Adventure! while Alicia Morton played the red-haired orphan in The Wonderful World of Disney’s TV remake in 1999.
Smith was thrilled to learn that she’d follow the path led by those ladies. “We were in my mom’s room and my team called and they were like, ‘What are you going to be doing this October?’” she said when appearing on Today in August 2021. “I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ And then they were like, ‘You’re going to be in New York doing Annie Live! this October.’ And I screamed!”
The new NBC musical will introduce Smith to the world as she performs with some famous faces in Annie Live! Empire alum Taraji P. Henson is set to play the vile Miss Hannigan while The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Tituss Burgess stars as con artist Rooster. Grammy winner Harry Connick Jr. will charm audiences as Daddy Warbucks, and his kind-hearted employee Grace will be played by The Masked Singer judge Nicole Scherzinger.
NBC previously brought live musicals with the small screen with The Sound of Music (2013), Peter Pan (2014), The Wiz (2015) and Hairspray (2016). Brandon Victor Dixon, John Legend, and Sara Bareilles led Jesus Christ Superstar when it debuted in spring 2019, while Matthew Morrison and Denis O’Hare brought Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical to life in winter 2020.
The live musical event will air on NBC Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. ET and will be available to stream on Peacock the next day.
Scroll down to learn more about Annie Live! star Celina Smith: