Meet Celina Smith, the Star of NBC's Annie Live!

After a nation-wide search, 12-year-old Celina Smith was officially announced on Aug. 24 to be playing little orphan Annie in the NBC live musical Annie Live! opposite Harry Connick Jr.

By Samantha Bergeson Aug 24, 2021 2:02 PMTags
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Bet your bottom dollar Annie Live! will be one for the books. 

The highly-anticipated NBC live musical officially announced the casting of the titular role on Aug. 24 after a nation-wide search. Broadway alum Celina Smith landed the famed little orphan Annie character, after playing Young Nala in the national touring company of The Lion King and appearing on the TV series Tyler Perry's Young Dylan. 

"Already a triple threat at the age of 12, Smith will light up center stage," NBC said in a press statement. The all-star cast already includes Taraji P. Henson as orphanage villain Miss HanniganHarry Connick Jr. as billionaire Sir Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, Nicole Scherzinger as Warbucks' secretary Grace and Tituss Burgess as Rooster. 

Smith stated, "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." The Atlanta-based pre-teen will sing Tony Award-winning hits like "Maybe," "Tomorrow" and "It's a Hard Knock Life" during the NBC live production, airing Thursday, Dec. 2. 

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NBC previously released a casting call for a "young, future star of any ethnicity to bring optimism, spunk, honesty and a wisdom beyond their years to the classic role," and scouted the country for a budding star with "an excellent voice with a strong high belt, great comedic timing and excellent dance skills." Auditions took place virtually, with rehearsals slated for October and November in New York.


Annie Live! will be NBC's first live musical broadcast since 2019's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles. Past productions include The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and Hairspray. 

Annie Live! will be executive produced by Robert GreenblattNeil Meron and Alex Rudzinsky, with Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski co-directing. Choreography will be led by Sergio TrujilloJason Sherwood will oversee production design. Stephen Oremus will orchestrate the music direction. Emilio Sosa will lead costume design. The live event is being produced by Chloe Productions. 

Annie Live! will air Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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