The network is launching a nationwide search for a young star to play the titular orphan

By Ashley Boucher
June 08, 2021 08:00 AM
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70th Primetime Emmy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2018
Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson has joined the cast of NBC's upcoming Annie Live! special.

The Oscar-nominated actress, 50, will play Miss Hannigan — the infamous head of the orphanage where Annie lives before she is adopted by Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks.

Henson follows in the footsteps of actresses such as Kathy Bates, Cameron Diaz, Jayne Lynch, Nell Carter, Kathie Lee Gifford, Sally Struthers, Jo Anne Worley, and Faith Prince (to name a few) — all who have played the role in various versions of the classic musical on stage and on screen.

The part was created by the late Dorothy Loudon in the original 1977 Broadway production, earning the actress a Tony award. Carol Burnett played the character in the 1982 film.

"Carol Burnett, who brought Miss Hannigan to life in the classic 1982 movie, is someone I have studied and idolized as far back as I can remember," Henson said in a statement. "So when the opportunity came to me to join NBC and this incredible group of producers, I jumped! Carol, I hope to do you proud!"

NBCUniversal Television and Streaming's Chairman, Entertainment Content, Susan Rovner, said that Henson's casting in the iconic role "will be a thrill that has all the makings of must-watch television."

"When we decided to bring back NBC's holiday musical tradition, we were looking for something that was critically acclaimed and universally beloved – and while that's definitely the case with Annie, it absolutely applies to Taraji as well," Rovner said.

As for the title role of Annie, NBC said in a news release that the title part has yet to be cast. A nationwide search for a young star is underway.

NBC said that the network is searching for "a young, future star of any ethnicity to bring optimism, spunk, honesty and a wisdom beyond their years to the classic role" of Annie. People from across the country are encouraged to audition virtually.

Annie
Credit: Everett

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Annie Live! will air December 2 on NBC.

This will be the sixth live musical the Peacock network has aired since reviving the trend with 2013's The Sound of Music Live!. Other musical events have included 2014's Peter Pan Live!, 2015's The Wiz Live!, 2016's Hairspray Live! and 2018's Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

All have been executive produced by Robert Greenblatt and Neil Meron, who will once again return on Annie Live! Lear deBessonet will direct, while Alex Rudzinski — whose live musical credits include Grease Live! and Rent: Live — will act as live television director and executive producer.

Based on the Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the musical Annie features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan.