Annie Live! is what the television Live musicals have been missing.

Annie Live! Was very well done, in my opinion. It was nice to see not only a child of color in the role (as I myself am a Latina) but also one that had a big voice similar to mine when I was that age. The tough thing about being twelve is that you are starting to physically grow up.




You aren’t really still in the kid’s parts anymore, but you’re not in the adult parts yet either. This happened to me in Secret Garden when I was about thirteen. I had the voice for Martha, but I was too tall and teenage looking to play Mary. So it was the in-between awkward stage. Luckily, Celina Smith nabbed this role before it passes her by. That is pure luck.



Annie Live!
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ANNIE LIVE! — Pictured: Celina Smith — (Photo by: Kahran Bethencourt/CreativeSoul Photography)


The biggest comments on social media were that she looked a little older to play the part. Annie is supposed to be around ten or so, while Celina is twelve years old. And she looks it too. But her Annie was so wonderful, and she is as cute as a button. I too agree that if they are going to do a flick on Aretha Franklin, she should play her as a child.



Celina was Young Nala in the Lion King tour, so she already had an MT background. You could feel the emotion when she was crying over the locket. You saw the real tears. It wasn’t fake or overdone. There was nothing wooden about this performance. She had the zest, the vocal pipes, and the likability that Annie should possess.




As for Taraji P. Henson, this role felt like it was made for her. She had bits and pieces of her own Agatha Hannigan in there, but there were also lots of callbacks to the wonderful original Miss Hannigan, Carol Burnett. Honestly, I’m surprised Carol was not involved with this production. Andrea McArdle the original Annie, was supposed to be playing Eleanor Roosevelt but was sadly called away on a family emergency. As someone who lost their dad a year ago, I do hope her father is alright and on a speedy recovery.



Now, as for Harry Connick Jr, we need to talk about that bald cap. It was as distracting as the camera angles and the choppy back and forth of the filming. I also noticed that when Miss Hannigan looked into the mirror to put on her makeup, the camera was right in her face. Taraji took it in stride, however–the true performer that she is.


She literally has a Broadway voice that we never hear anymore. Similar to Celina’s. The powerful, shake-the rafters type of voice, rather than the little squeaky Disney Princess voices that are so generic, I hear them at audition appointments.


Harry seemed to be better in the second act, he was more direct and aggressive as Warbucks should be. But his crooner Sinatra-styled singing was just very out of place for the character. He is definitely a jazz singer, similar to when musical theater performers sing pop music. It’s never the best match.



Where on earth did Sandy go? I noticed at the very end, Celina had a hard time trying to get the canine to sit, so perhaps it had something to do with an anxious dog on the stage.


The ensemble was amazing as random homeless, people on the street, etc. And yes, Mr. Bundles popped up more than once in many scenes. Nicole Scherzinger, a favorite of Andrew Lloyd Webber did what Rihanna’s song said, shine bright like a diamond.¬†Gorgeous. Excellent dancer. Beautiful actress, and freakin’ smooth as silk vocal transitions.



I don’t understand why they had Grace belt so much though. She’s supposed to be more soprano, that’s like having Maria in Sound of Music belt everything. Either way. not Nicole’s fault–she aced it. Megan Hilty was amazing as Lily (even though I did miss Jane), though I felt Tituss Burgess was a little miscast as Rooster. He still comes off as a sassy teddy bear, not having the sneaky, slimy grit that Rooster is supposed to have. I did hear a crack and some nerves, but that’s to be expected in live theater. Been there. Done that. And his acting as Mr. Mudge was spot on.


Overall, the choppy camera work, the missing dog, and Harry’s bald cap couldn’t take away the sparkle from this show. A small shoutout to the little girl who played Molly, who was literally picture-perfect and spot-on cast by Telsey, as well as Pepper, Duffy, and the rest of the kids.


Well done!



About the author: Katie Harden is a professionally repped New York-based/bi-coastal musical theater, entertainment journalist, and indie film actress. She is proudly part of the Actor’s Equity Association and frequently interviews colleagues, friends, and celebrities, along with reviewing television and movies. Find her at the bottom of a can of Arizona sweet tea or in the ocean! @KHardenOfficial


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