Tonight, the musical Hairspray airs live from Los Angeles. The production stars Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad, Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle, Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed J. Stubbs, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Little Inez, Derek Hough as Corny Collins, Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, and Dove Cameron as Amber Von Tussle.
A couple of quick thoughts on “Hairspray Live”
- After FOX’s upped the ante last spring with the technical triumph that was Grease Live! NBC had no choice but to try and match it–moving the production to Los Angeles, pulling the action outdoors and onto multiple sets. Technically, Grease Live is the show that pushed the envelope for live musicals in the modern age, Hairspray was a competent imitation in that respect. Nothing will match the staging and camera work in the Grease Live! dance show scene.
- The leads were weak. Newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad could barely dance and sing at the same time. Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin lacked charisma and chemistry with Baillio. Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton lacked any ability to move on stage. And she mumbled her way through all of her songs. Musical Theater Rule #1 ENUNCIATE. Her voice was also ill suited for the songs.
- But the show was cast with an impressive array of supporting characters: Jennifer Hudson stole the show as Motormouth Maybelle. Not gonna lie–I teared up during “I Know Where I’ve Been. Martin Short may be Canadian, but he’s still a National Treasure. Also Harvey Fierstein, the incomparable Kristin Chenoweth was delicious as the evil Velma Von Tussle. Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed, Dove Cameron as the mean girl Amber were also both fun to watch. Dancing with the Stars pro, Derek Hough was a little bland as Corny Collins, but he knows how to move on stage.
- I had only seen the original 1988 John Waters movie Hairspray (and loved it!). As a musical it worked, but there were only a few strong songs? Or maybe the songs needed a better cast performing them. By the way, it was cool to see the OG Tracys, Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur in cameos. Fun facts: Glee’s Matt Morrison originated the role of Link Larkin on Broadway. Debbie Harry played Velma Von Tussle in the original Waters movie. RIP Divine.
- Speaking of Glee: Darren Criss hosted the backstage bits. Maybe he’ll star in next year’s production of Bye Bye Birdie…
- Loved loved the Reddi Whip and Oreo Cookie commercials presented as Corny Collins Show commercials.
- The NBC musical has become part of my personal holiday tradition. LOVE musicals on my TV.
More Videos – Click on Photo to Watch!
Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad) – Good Morning Baltimore
Ariana Grande (Penny Pingleton) Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad) Cameron Dove (Amber Von Tussle) – Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now
Kristin Chenoweth (Velma Von Tussle) (The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs
Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad) & Garrett Clayton (Link Larkin) – It Takes Two
Ephraim Sykes (Seaweed J. Stubbs) – Run & Tell That
Ariana Grande (Penny Pingleton) & Ephraim Sykes (Seaweed J. Stubbs) Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad) & Garrett Clayton (Link Larkin) – Without Love