After a nationwide search, “Annie Live!” has found its star.
NBC announced that 12-year-old newcomer Celina Smith will play the titular character during the live musical event set to air Dec. 2.
Hailing from Atlanta, Smith will join all-star cast, which includes Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Emmy and Grammy winner Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace and Tituss Burgess as Rooster.
“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,” she said in a statement.
The young actress’ previous credits include Tyler Perry’s Nickelodeon series “Young Dylan” and a stint as Young Nala in the national touring company of “The Lion King” musical.
Though actresses such as Kristen Vigard, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lilla Crawford, Sadie Sink, Andrea McArdle and Aileen Quinn previously portrayed the plucky orphan on stage and screen, it wasn’t until Will Gluck cast Academy Award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis in his 2014 big screen adaptation that a non-white actress made a splash with the coveted role.
The “Beasts of the Southern Wild” star was the first African American to appear as little orphan Annie on film.
The landmark 1977 Broadway production, originally inspired by Harold Gray’s 1924 comic strip, is one of the biggest hits in Broadway history and the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Licensed and performed in 50 countries and translated into eight languages, the Thomas Meehan-written story centers on a little orphan who ultimately ends up in the lap of luxury with Depression-era billionaire Oliver Warbucks.
The musical is known for its big musical numbers “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow”— crafted by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin.