Annie Live! Casts Celina Smith in Title Role: 'So Excited for This Journey to Start'

Celina Smith will star in NBC's upcoming production of Annie Live! alongside Harry Connick Jr. and Taraji P. Henson

After searching across the country, NBC has found its Annie.

The network, which will broadcast Annie Live! this December has cast Celina Smith to play the lead role in its upcoming production. Smith, 12, joined the Today show Tuesday for the big announcement.

The young actress told Today she first found out she had been cast as Annie after a long audition process that began with a self-tape and ended with one very exciting call.

Looking back on the moment she heard she landed the role, Smith told Today, "We were in my mom's room and my team called and they were like, 'What are you going to be doing this October?'"

"I was like, 'I don't know,' " she continued, "and then they were like, 'You're going to be in New York doing Annie Live this October!' and I screamed."

After a nationwide casting search, we can exclusively reveal Celina Smith will play the title role in NBC’s upcoming holiday production of “Annie Live!”

For more on Celina Smith getting cast in title role in Annie Live! and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

Smith, who has been performing since she was seven years old, said she got her start singing at an entertainment camp called AGI Entertainment. Just five years later, she's set to star alongside award-winning performers in Annie Live!

"It's just so amazing being able to perform with such an iconic cast, and I'm just so excited for this journey to start," Smith told Today.

Smith previously toured with The Lion King playing Young Nala, and appeared in the Tyler Perry series Young Dylan, which premiered on Nickelodeon in 2020.

The NBC musical is also set to star Tituss Burgess as Rooster Hannigan, Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks and Nicole Scherzinger as Grace Farrell.

Connick opened up about being cast as Daddy Warbucks earlier this summer, telling PEOPLE in June, "It's such a classic show and it's a show that I'm so familiar with, just from seeing it a million times.

He added, "And it's one of those things where you watch it and enjoy it and never really imagine yourself a part of it, so when I was asked to play Daddy Warbucks it was kind of surreal because that's such an iconic role."

"Annie" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals And Curtain Call
Andrew H. Walker/Getty

Annie Live! marks the sixth live musical to air on NBC since 2013's The Sound of Music Live!. The network has previously aired 2014's Peter Pan Live!, 2015's The Wiz Live!, 2016's Hairspray Live! and 2018's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

Robert Greenblatt and Neil Meron, who previously produced all six NBC musicals, will return for Annie Live!, which will be directed by Lear deBessonet, with Alex Rudzinski joining as act as live television director and executive producer.

Annie Live! premieres Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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