The sun will come out Dec. 2!
Annie Live! and its star-studded cast are just days away from their NBC debut, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be a show-stopping production.
NBC is taking the beloved Broadway classic to television for a live adaptation of the monster hit musical, as the network continues in its holiday tradition of bringing Broadway favorites from the stage to the screen.
Oscar and Emmy nominee Taraji P. Henson was the first cast member to be announced as Miss Hannigan, the head of the orphanage where Annie lives and dreams of a better life. In the 1982 film, the iconic villain was played by Carol Burnett – an actress Henson idolizes.
"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," said Susan Rovner, Chairman of Entertainment Content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming.
After a nationwide search, Celina Smith has been cast as the show's titular character. The 12-year-old talent will get to sing Annie's show-stopping "Tomorrow," among other hits such as "Maybe" and "It's a Hard Knock Life."
"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. She even wowed audiences with a preview performance during this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
NBC kicked off the recent trend of bringing musicals live to air with The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood in 2013. Annie Live! is the network's most recent foray into staging musicals live during primetime (other recent NBC stagings included Hairspray, The Wiz and Jesus Christ Superstar).
Annie premiered on Broadway in 1977 and won seven Tony Awards. Based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the show follows Annie, a young girl who lives in an orphanage and dreams of reuniting with her parents someday. When millionaire Oliver Warbucks takes the girl for good publicity and helps stage a search for her parents, she learns to love him — despite attempts to sabotage her happy ending by orphanage owner Miss Hannigan.
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Annie the Broadway musical (2012)
Read on for all the Annie Live! details: How to watch, who's in the cast, and everything in between.
When will Annie Live! air?
Annie Live! will premiere on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 8/7c on NBC.
Who's in the Annie Live! cast?
In addition to Smith as Annie and Henson as Miss Hannigan, the rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces. Six-time, Emmy-nominated actor Tituss Burgess will play Rooster Hannigan, Miss Hannigan's brother who helps her scheme to get the reward money.
Connick told 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 ... 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."
NBC also announced that Alan Toy has been cast as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, like Toy, contracted polio which resulted in paralysis. Toy is the first polio survivor to play the character, and he described the role as "a huge honor."
How was the Annie actress discovered?
NBC put out an open casting call for "a young future star" to fill Annie's Mary Janes. Some of the requirements that were listed on Cast It Talent included "a heart of gold … an excellent voice with a strong high belt, great comedic timing and excellent dance skills."
Smith, who's cast as Annie, described the long-audition process as a task that started with a self-tape and ended with one exciting call. The actress, who started singing at age seven, has held roles on Nickelodeon's Young Dylan and previously toured with The Lion King playing Young Nala.
Has COVID affected Annie Live! production?
Tony award-winning actress Jane Krakowski was originally set to play Lily St. Regis, but has pulled out after contracting a breakthrough coronavirus case while filming a project in Europe despite being double vaccinated. Hilty will replace her role.
"She'll be cheering Megan [Hilty] and the cast on from the sidelines," a source tells PEOPLE.
Unrelated to COVID, Andrea McArdle also announced her withdrawal from the production due to a family emergency. Best known for originating the Broadway role of Annie in 1977, she was set to play Eleanor Roosevelt in the live adaptation.
When did Annie Live! rehearsals begin?
Rehearsals began on Oct. 18, when members of the cast and director Neil Meron posted on Instagram a photo of their Annie Live! binder writing "Day 1 ... And there will be lots of #Tomorrows."
What other live TV adaptations have there been?
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.
All productions have been executive produced by Robert Greenblatt and Meron, who will return for 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.