Twelve-year-old Celina Smith, a cast member of Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan on Nickelodeon, has landed the title role of NBC’s Annie Live!, the upcoming holiday production of the classic Broadway musical.
Smith, who started her career as Young Nala in the national touring company of The Lion King, joins NBC production’s previously cast Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace and Tituss Burgess as Rooster.
Annie Live! airs Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m.
“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.
Smith, of Atlanta, was cast in the role following a nationwide search for a new Annie, according to NBC. The character, long considered one of the great musical theater roles for young actresses, gets to sing the show’s most famous showstopper – “Tomorrow” – as well as “Maybe” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” among others.
Based on the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie that debuted in 1924, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1977, won seven Tony Awards and initially ran for over four years. Actress Andrea McArdle won fame as the production’s big-voiced star, and subsequent Annies include Sarah Jessica Parker, Lila Crawford and, in film adaptations, Aileen Quinn and Willow Smith.
Annie Live! will be executive produced by Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron and Alex Rudzinsky, with Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski sharing the directing duties. Choreography will be led by Sergio Trujillo. The live event is being produced by Chloe Productions.
Smith is represented by Pantheon, J Pervis Talent Agency, AGI Entertainment and attorney Mark Temple.
By Greg Evans // Deadline
Photo by Celina Smith // Kahran Bethencourt/CreativeSoul Photography