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‘Annie Live!’ found its star! Meet the 12-year-old who will lead the NBC musical

It may be a hard knock life for some, but it's a good one right now for this young actor.

You may not know the name Celina Smith just yet, but you certainly will soon.

After a nationwide search, Celina has secured the role of Annie in NBC’s upcoming holiday production of “Annie Live!” The news was revealed Tuesday morning on TODAY.

The 12-year-old native of Atlanta, who appears on the Nickelodeon show “Young Dylan” and began her career playing young Nala in a national tour of “The Lion King,” joins a stellar cast that includes Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace and Tituss Burgess as Rooster.

Annie Live!
Celina Smith is stepping into the title role for “Annie Live!”Kahran Bethencourt / CreativeSoul

How’d did Celina find out she got the part?

“We were in my mom’s room and my team called and they were like, ‘What are you going to be doing this October?’” she said when appearing live on the TODAY plaza Tuesday. “I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ And then they were like, ‘You’re going to be in New York doing “Annie Live!” this October.’ And I screamed!”

Celina, who says she started singing at the age of 7, is thrilled to join the rest of the ensemble.

Taraji P. Henson, Harry Connick Jr., Nicole Scherzinger and Tituss Burgess are all part of the stacked cast of “Annie Live!”
Taraji P. Henson, Harry Connick Jr., Nicole Scherzinger and Tituss Burgess are all part of the stacked cast of “Annie Live!”

“It’s just so amazing to be able to perform with such an iconic cast, and I’m so excited for this journey to start,” she said.

“Just being a part of this production is an amazing opportunity and I’m so excited to be here in New York.”

Celina also follows in the footsteps of a well-known stable of performers who’ve portrayed Annie. Aileen Quinn played the part in the 1982 film, while Quvenzhané Wallis tackled the role in the 2014 remake.

ANNIE, Sandy, Aileen Quinn, 1982.
Aileen Quinn as "Annie" in the 1982 film.Everett Collection
ANNIE, Quvenzhane Wallis in Annie
Quvenzhané Wallis took on the iconic role in the 2014 remake.Everett Collection

Sarah Jessica Parker has also portrayed the character on Broadway, as has Andrea McCardle, who originated the role in the Tony-winning musical.

Sarah Jessica Parker Performing in Annie
Sarah Jessica Parker has played many roles, including Annie in 1979. Lynn Goldsmith / Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Annie Performers Posing Together
Annie was played by Andrea McArdle in the original Broadway show in 1977, while Reid Shelton played Daddy Warbucks. Bettmann Archive

“Annie Live!” is scheduled to air Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.