The next musical to be turned into a TV production appears to be the popular classic Annie, with NBC set to stage the show as a Christmas production in 2021. Variety reports that production has already started casting and Empire star Taraji. calls P. Henson Hannigan as his wife.
“When we decided to bring NBC’s Christmas music tradition back, we were looking for something that would be critically acclaimed and universally loved – and while Annie definitely is, Taraji is,” said Susan Rovner, chairman of Entertainment Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement. “Watching her take on this iconic role is going to be a thrill that has everything you need to see on TV.”
Henson is the first member of the cast to be announced and a nationwide search is currently underway to find the musical’s young star with virtual auditions. Whichever talented tween gets the coveted role will be spending a lot of time with Henson as some of the early scenes of the musical are set in the New York orphanage where Annie lives, which is run by little girl-hating Mrs. Hannigan.
The villain was previously portrayed in the film by Carol Burnett, Kathy Bates and Cameron Diaz, who starred in film adaptations of the musical in 1982, 1999 and 2014. “Carol Burnett, who brought Miss Hannigan to life in the 1982 classic film, is someone I have studied and adored for as long as I can remember,” Henson said in a statement. “When I got the chance to join NBC and this incredible group of producers, I jumped! Carol, I hope to make you proud! “
The musical Annie, which is based on the Harold Gray comic “Little Orphan Annie” from the early 1920s, premiered on Broadway in 1977 and was licensed, performed and translated into eight languages in 50 countries. Rehearsals for NBC’s Annie Live will take place in New York in October and November, and the musical will air on NBC Thursday, December 2.
Along with the upcoming musical, Henson is also working on developing a spin-off from Empire that will focus on her character Cookie Lyon. Empire ended its run with an unintended season finale in April 2020 after the pandemic halted filming on the show’s penultimate episode, and Henson told Entertainment Weekly that she wanted to give Cookie a decent goodbye.
“As an artist, it hurts me not to finish something that you started,” she said. “I feel incomplete. I never start or finish anything. And so it is deep for me; I have to end it or this will haunt me for the rest of my life and career as an audience. And I don’t think we should withhold this ending from such a loyal fan base. You deserve to be in their feelings. You deserve more than this abrupt ending. And I understand where we are right now, we have responsibility to take. But I think when the dust settles, the audience deserves it at the end of the day. “