NBC casts newcomer Celina Smith, 12, to star in ‘Annie Live!’ musical

You can bet your bottom dollar on it. 

NBC’s latest musical, “Annie Live!,” has found its irrepressible titular orphan: Celina Smith. 

The 12-year-old, Atlanta-born actress is a Hollywood newcomer whose sole previous TV role was in Tyler Perry’s Nickelodeon show “Young Dylan.” Smith — who also played Young Nala in a touring production of “The Lion King” — will soon be belting out famous songs including “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life.” 

She landed the coveted role after a nationwide search. “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 with NBC’s announcement. 

She’ll be joining a star-studded cast including Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace and Tituss Burgess as Rooster. 

The last high-profile African-American actress to be cast as “Annie” was Oscar-nominated Quvenzhané Wallis for a 2014 film that also starred Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan and Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks, a character inspired by the musical’s Daddy Warbucks. Unfortunately — and all too predictably — there was a racist backlash among some “Annie” fans over the fact that the famous orphan was no longer a freckled redhead, as portrayed by Andrea McArdle in the 1977 Broadway musical. 

“So this #Annie movie is all wrong. I wanna live in a colorless world but I will not stand for a black Annie. #EnoughSaid,” one Twitter user said. 

So far, there appears to be minimal online chatter spouting the same sentiments about the NBC holiday special.

The production will be the latest in NBC’s slew of live TV musical broadcasts. Previous installments have included takes on “The Sound of Music,” starring Carrie Underwood; “Peter Pan,” starring Allison Williams; and “Jesus Christ Superstar” starring John Legend. 

“Annie Live!” will premiere on Thursday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m. on NBC. 


New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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