You definitely can’t stop the beat! NBC aired its live production of “Hairspray” last night, giving their best show in recent years.
Set in 1960s Baltimore, “Hairspray” tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, who has dreamed of singing and dancing on “The Corny Collins Show” her whole life. When a spot opens up, Tracy makes her dream a reality, but is confronted with trouble when she realizes the unfairness of the segregation on the show.
With an all-star studded cast, including Ariana Grande as Penny, Kristin Chenoweth as Velma, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Martin Short as Wilbur and Harvey Fierstein as Edna, “Hairspray Live!” does not disappoint.
The show stars Maddie Baillio in the lead role of Tracy, which is her very first venture into the professional acting world. Baillio delivers a likeable and captivating performance, shows off her musical chops, and proves she can play in the big leagues.
On the other hand, Garrett Clayton, another relative newcomer who played Tracy’s love interest Link, fell a little flat. While the character of Link has always been a bit one-dimensional, Clayton’s performance seemed to highlight his shallowness, and he was completely outshone by Baillio.
…the moment that truly brought down the house and is sure to have everyone talking was Hudson’s performance of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been.’
Fierstein, who also wrote the book for the television production, reprised the role he originated on Broadway in 2002 and became one of the most fun parts of the show. With his signature raspy voice and infectious energy, it’s like the role of Edna was written just for him.
With three powerhouse vocalists in the cast, it’s hard to choose who stood out most. Chenoweth’s performance of “Miss Baltimore Crabs” proved exactly why she’s one of the Broadway greats. Grande’s voice was amazing as expected, but what was unexpected was her comedic talent. Penny’s awkwardness was played perfectly and created some of the funniest moments of the show, especially when she attempted to dance with Seaweed, played by Ephraim Sykes.
But the moment that truly brought down the house and is sure to have everyone talking was Hudson’s performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been.” You know it’s good when the rest of the cast is in tears! Hudson belted out those notes with such power and strength and made that song the key theme of the show.
While the show is wrapped up in sparkles, big hair and tons of hairspray, “Hairspray” shares an important message about race and acceptance that still resonates today. No matter what size you are or what color your skin is, you can still make a difference.
“Hairspray Live!” marks NBC’s fourth live production, which began with “The Sound of Music Live!” in 2013. While the inaugural show did bring in tons of viewers, it was criticized for its production value and quality of performances. Its predecessors fared steadily better, and last night’s show proves the network has come a long way.
NBC’s recent live musical adaptations harken back to the 1950s and 1960s when live musicals were common on television, such as when the iconic Julie Andrews took the stage in “Cinderella” in 1957. This tradition is one that has been a part of American culture for years, and it is so gratifying to see that despite today’s many technological advances and changing viewing habits, a live musical can still excite and inspire.
It’s clear the live musical movement is set to continue, with NBC’s announcement of its production of “Bye Bye Birdie” in 2017 starring Jennifer Lopez. I, for one, cannot wait to see what they do next.
For more information about “Hairspray Live!” click here.