Oscar-nominated Queen Taraji P. Henson has been tapped to play the boozy and disgruntled icon Miss Hannigan in NBC‘s holiday production of Annie Live! which will debut on December 2. This makes us ask the question: “Why the hell hasn’t Henson been cast as Miss Hannigan sooner?
Don’t get it twisted: we aren’t saying that Henson is a boozy, mean woman who hates kids like Miss Hannigan. Henson is just a damn good actress and as soon as I heard this news I immediately applauded at this momentous casting. She will be joined by a soon-to-be-discovered young star that will play the titular orphan as the network has kicked off a nationwide casting search for the role.
As far as we know, Henson is the first Black actress to play Miss Hannigan on the big screen. Wanda Sykes played her in a 2011 production at Media Theatre for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. Again, another bout of perfect casting.
Henson is in good company as Carol Burnett played Miss Hannigan in the 1982 screen adaptation of the Tony award musical. The role was also portrayed by Cameron Diaz in the 2014 iteration which starred Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie — which marked the first time a Black actress played the role.
“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, Entertainment Content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “Watching her take on this iconic role will be a thrill that has all the makings of must-watch television.”
Henson said of the role: “Carol Burnett, who brought Miss Hannigan to life in the classic 1982 movie, is someone I have studied and idolized as far back as I can remember. So when the opportunity came to me to join NBC and this incredible group of producers, I jumped! Carol, I hope to do you proud!”
The search is on for a young, future star of any ethnicity to bring optimism, spunk, honesty and a wisdom beyond their years to the classic role. Auditions will happen virtually, so if you think you can bet your bottom dollar that you can play Annie visit https://castittalent.com/Annie_Live for more information and a link to upload your audition. Rehearsals will be in October/November 2021 in New York.
Annie Live! will be executive produced by Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron, and Alex Rudzinsky, with Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski sharing the directing duties. Choreography will be led by Sergio Trujillo. Paul Tazewell will design costumes. Jason Sherwood will orchestrate production design. Stephen Oremus will oversee the music direction. The live event is being produced by Chloe Productions.
Annie is one of the most beloved and biggest hits in Broadway history and the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has been licensed and performed in 50 countries and translated into eight languages. Based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” that debuted in 1924, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1977 and initially ran for over four years.
NBC has a fairly good record when it comes to its live musical events. There were great hits like The Wiz (2015), Hairspray (2016) and Jesus Christ Superstar (2018). Then there was The Sound of Music (2013), Peter Pan (2014), and The Grinch (2020) which were very…well… they weren’t that great, but at least they tried. With Henson on board Annie, we already know this is going to be one to watch.
Henson, is an award-winning actress, producer, activist and a best-selling author. She’s won a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and the Critic’s Choice Award for her performance as Cookie Lyon in the series Empire. She was lauded for her work in Hustle & Flow and she received an Oscar nomination for her role in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Henson is repped by M88, Ziffren Law and the Lede Company.