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Annie broadcast unveils its lead star

A former young Nala will take on the iconic role

Celina Smith
© CreativeSoul Photography

Twelve year-old Celina Smith will take on the title role in NBC's upcoming holiday production of Annie Live!, which is airing on Thursday 2 December at 8pm ET in the US (we're sure it'll arrive in the UK at some point).

Smith, a former Young Nala in the national tour of The Lion King, was found after a nationwide talent search. She joins Harry Connick Jr as Oliver Warbucks and Taraji P Henson as Miss Hannigan, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace, and Tituss Burgess as Rooster.

Alex Rudzinski will serve as the live TV director and executive producer, with Lear deBessonet, the artistic director of New York City Center Encores! and creator of the Public Works program at the Public Theater, serving as stage director.

The production will have choreography by Tony winner Sergio Trujillo, costumes by Paul Tazewell, sets by Jason Sherwood, and orchestrations by Stephen Oremus. Bob Greenblatt and Neil Meron are producing alongside Chloe Productions.

The Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Harold Gray's comic strip features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and a book by Thomas Meehan.

This will be the fourth filmed iteration of the show, following the original 1982 movie starring Carol Burnett and Albert Finney, the 1999 TV film led by Kathy Bates and Victor Garber, and the 2014 movie remake, with Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.

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