NBC brings Broadway energy back into your living room with Hairspray Live!

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05 December 2016

NBC, December 7, 8/7c

By Lori Acken

America needs Tracy Turnblad now more than ever.

The fearlessly sunny poster girl for selfesteem, racial equality and the power of a good set of dance moves is the creation of avantgarde auteur John Waters, who made her the centerpiece of his 1988 feature film Hairspray. The quirky tale of the Rubenesque teen’s quest to star on, then integrate, her favorite local dance show in 1960s Baltimore was only a minor box office success, but its do-right message resonated with veteran Broadway producer Margo Lion.

Hairspray the musical debuted in summer 2002. Seven years, eight Tony Awards, more than 2,500 performances and a 2007 movie reboot later, the show ended its Broadway run, living on in national and international touring productions. Because, as the musical’s fans know — and new fans are soon to discover — you can’t stop the beat. Or the lasting power of Hairspray.

On Wednesday, Tracy and the Corny Collins Show gang will bop their way to your television in NBC’s Hairspray Live! Harvey Fierstein — who adapted the stage production and steps back into Edna Turnblad’s housedresses nearly 15 years after he originated the role on Broadway — anchors the star-studded live production.

Fierstein says Hairspray Live! “will be much more the experience of seeing it onstage, but it will have the [production] values of a movie.” And an audience that theater can’t match, which means more folks will hear Hairspray’s gentle message of kindness and inclusion.

For Fierstein — who says more people will see him play Edna in a single night on TV than at all of his thousand-plus stage performances combined — Hairspray Live! represents the chance to turn a much-loved role into a fresh experience with some longtime pals.

“Kristin Chenoweth [who plays Tracy’s rival’s cutthroat momager Velma Von Tussle], says she must have been 6 feet tall when I first met her,” Fierstein jokes. “Now she’s a foot and a half tall! Show business has worn her down to the bone. We’ve been friends for 20-some years, but we’ve never done a show together, so that alone is fun. I’ve known Marty Short [who plays Mr. Turnblad] for a bunch of years, and yet we’ve never done a show together. Now we get to be married!”

Baillio — Fierstein’s newest pal and newest Tracy — says she relishes bringing “the ultimate optimist” to a new generation of fans. “She’s so at home in her own skin — and she doesn’t see why there’s any reason she shouldn’t be,” says the 20-year-old college student. “I wasn’t like that … so getting to play someone like her is so inspiring.”
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