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Annie Live!: Celina Smith Lands Title Role in NBC's Holiday Musical

Celina Smith as Annie on NBC

NBC has found its Little Orphan Annie: 12-year-old Celina Smith will headline the network’s forthcoming musical event Annie Live!, it was announced Tuesday.

Smith — who is best known for her supporting role as Rebecca Wilson on Tyler Perry’s Nickelodeon sitcom Young Dylan — won the role after a nationwide search. She previously played Young Nala in the national touring company of The Lion King. She joins an all-star cast that includes Harry Connick Jr. (Will & Grace) as Sir Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Taraji P. Henson (Empire) as Miss Hannigan, Nicole Scherzinger (The Masked Singer) as Grace, and Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as Miss Hannigan’s brother Rooster.

“It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of the talented young ladies who have played Annie before me,” Smith said in a statement. “I can’t wait to start this journey.”

The original Broadway run of Annie bowed in 1977, and was the recipient of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It was adapted into a feature film in 1982 and featured Aileen Quinn in the title role. A small-screen sequel, Annie: A Royal Adventure! starring Ashley Johnson, came in 1995, followed by a made-for-TV remake of the original Broadway production in 1999, starring Alicia Morton. A second big-screen adaptation featuring Quvenzhané Wallis as the eponymous orphan was released in 2014.

NBC’s previous live musical productions include 2013’s The Sound of Music Live!, 2014’s Peter Pan Live!, 2015’s The Wiz Live!, 2016’s Hairspray Live! and 2018’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. More recently, the network in 2020 aired Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical, a prerecorded stage show headlined by Matthew Morrison (oof).

Annie Live! will air Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8/7c on NBC. In the meantime, hit the comments and tell us if you’ll be tuning in for the broadcaster’s latest musical production.