Interview: Executive Producer Neil Meron Shares Why ANNIE LIVE is Perfect for Right Now

Annie Live airs on NBC tonight, December 2 at 8pm ET.

By: Dec. 02, 2021

Earlier this week, executive producer of Annie Live, Neil Meron, took over our Instagram to answer fan questions about putting together NBC's latest live TV musical.

Wondering why the producers chose Annie for right now? How about the best part about filming in New York? Meron answers all of these questions and more below!

Tune in to Annie Live tonight on NBC at 8pm ET.

What's different about this production of Annie?

This production of Annie as opposed to other recorded versions of Annie is different because we're going back to the original stage roots. We're actually honoring what was done on stage in 1977 and making some adjustments for the times we live in so it is more expansive it is... the cast is incredibly diverse. We have added some songs that were not in the original production, but the shape of the show is 1977 and that's never been recorded before.

How does producing a live musical for TV differ from producing a stage production?

You know doing a live musical on TV is like combining the best of TV and filmmaking because you have a bigger canvas to paint on than you do in the theater and you have to make things intimate enough for the TV camera and for the people at home. So, you kind of put in the same amount of work in terms of the rehearsal period but the way that material is approached is completely different and it's kind of a very, very unique hybrid of film, TV, and theater. And one big difference is you have your opening and closing night all in the same night.

How is filming this in NY special to this production?

Producing this show in New York is probably the best place it can be produced because we're close to Broadway, we're close to this incredible talent pool, and nobody does musicals like the people that live and work in New York and so we're so thrilled to be here.

Why is Annie still important today?

Annie is incredibly important today because of the message that she radiates and that is optimism. I think we need optimism now more than ever. When it premiered in 1977, the optimistic message was important. But what we've been through the past year, year and a half, we really really need to bask in Annie's glow.

What's one thing you want audiences to take away from this production?

The one thing that we want audiences to take away from this production is that any time Annie is produced is the right time to produce Annie. Its message is forever. Its characters are timeless and it's all about the possibility that radiates from the show. We want that to kind of envelope everybody that watches.

Meron executive produces alongside Robert Greenblatt and Alex Rudzinsky, with Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski sharing the directing duties.

Choreography will be led by Sergio Trujillo. Jason Sherwood will oversee production design. Stephen Oremus will orchestrate the music direction. Emilio Sosa will lead costume design. The live event is being produced by Chloe Productions.

Celina Smith will light up center stage in the title role of Annie. Smith joins an all-star ensemble including Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Nicole Scherzinger as Grace, Tituss Burgess as Rooster and Megan Hilty as Lily St. Regis.

Alan Toy will play the role of President Roosevelt. Toy is a prolific actor of stage and screen and leading a voice in the disabled community.

The ensemble will feature Felice Kakaletris as Molly, Cate Elefante as Kate, Sophie Knapp as July, Tessa Frascogna as Tessie, Arwen Monzon-Sanders as Duffy and Audrey Cymone as Pepper as well as Wendi Bergamini, Jadaya Bivins, Brittany Conigatti, Ben Davis, Zachary Downer, Karla Garcia, Kayla Goins, Luke Hawkins, Christopher Hernandez, Afra Hines, Trinity Inay, Jeff Kready, McKenzie Kurtz, Jenny Laroche, Brandt Martinez, Morgan Marcell, Liz McCartney, Anastacia McCleskey, Giana Rice, Eliseo Roman, Lily Tamburo, Sherrod Tate, Kennedy Thompson, Tanairi Vazquez, Jacob Keith Watson, Alex Wong and Corde Young.