“The sun’ll come ouuuuuut to-morrow!”
Everyone’s favorite optimistic orphan gets the spotlight as NBC revives its live TV musical tradition on Thursday with a new rendition of Annie. The Depression-era story about a young girl living a hard-knock life in an orphanage debuted on Broadway in 1977 and won seven Tony Awards.
Stepping into the red dress and curls is Atlanta’s Celina Smith, who came out on top of a nationwide talent search. Joining her in the cast are Taraji P. Henson as orphanage matron Miss Hannigan, Harry Connick Jr. as billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace Farrell, Tituss Burgess as Rooster Hannigan, and Megan Hilty as Lily St. Regis.
And, of course, there are the unforgettable tunes. “There are few musicals like Annie where you know the words to every song and the overriding message — especially in the trying times we live in — is optimism,” says executive producer Neil Meron. “The song ‘Tomorrow’ means more than ever now.”
“It’s nice to know that something positive is on the horizon,” Connick tells us. “The message of the show also says that if you just hang in there, everything’s gonna work out. There may be some bad bumps along the way, but ultimately you’ll be able to get through it.”
Annie Live! gives Connick the chance to croon an old favorite he covered on his 2001 Songs I Heard album. “I’ve always loved the whole score. It’s a really beautiful piece of work,” Connick says. “Probably my favorite is this song called ‘Something Was Missing,’ which is one of the songs I recorded, and I get to sing it in this production.”
And what about shaving his head to play the famously chrome-domed character? “I’m going to wear a bald cap,” Connick says. “If this were like eight shows a week, then I think shaving my head would be the best option because it takes a long time to get the bald cap on. But because it’s only one show, and I have commitments right after, I’m going to go ahead and wear the bald cap.”
Annie Live! airs on NBC Thursday, Dec. 2, at 8pm ET/PT.