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Celina Smith Lands Lead in NBC’s Annie Live!

After a nationwide, virtual search for a young actor to play the title role, Annie Live! has found its lead with Celina Smith.

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.

“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 joins previously cast Tituss Burgess, Taraji P. Henson, Harry Connick Jr., and Nicole Scherzinger in NBC’s adaptation of the Tony-winning musical.

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Burgess stars as Rooster, the underhanded brother of the ruthless Miss Hannigan (P. Henson). Miss Hannigan is in charge of the orphanage where Annie lived but she also hated little girls. Together they will hatch a plan to deceive Connick Jr’s Daddy Warbucks and Scherzinger’s Grace to make a fortune off of little orphan Annie.

Based on the classic comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the show features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan. The original Broadway production opened in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, won seven Tony Awards and includes the now-standard songs “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” The musical has been adapted for film several times, including in 1982, 1999 and 2014.

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Annie Live! comes from Chloe Productions and is being executive-produced by Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron and Alex Rudzinski. The latter will co-direct with Lear deBessonet. Sergio Trujillo will choreograph, Paul Tazewell will design the costumes, Jason Sherwood will oversee production design and Stephen Oremus will serve as musical director.

Annie Live! airs on Thursday, December 2nd.

Twelve-year-old Celina Smith’s credits include Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan on Nickelodeon. She also starred as Young Nala in the national touring company of The Lion King.

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