Hairspray holds a special place in my heart. I've had the pleasure to work on it twice, and have seen it multiple times. When done well, Hairspray can be a non-stop evening of musical theatre excellence. When done poorly, it is still a shitload of fun. By this rationale, Hairspray Live could do little to no wrong in my eyes. However, to me, this may have been one of the worst executed live broadcasts in the past several years.
As I already mentioned, I am a fan of Hairspray. Long before the musical was ever written, I was a fan of the original John Waters film from 1988. Ricki Lake as Tracey and Divine as Edna introduced me to the whacked out world of Waters, and my eventual love for the film/musical Cry-Baby. I distinctly remember seeing the first national tour, starring Bruce Vilanch as Edna. The energy coming off that stage could have powered the entire Fox on its own.
When NBC announced Hairspray, my biggest concern was that they do the stage show. While the 2007 film had some amazing elements, it fell flat to me. Bringing in Mr. Harvey Fierstein to adapt the script for NBC was potentially the smartest decision the producers could make, after casting him as Edna, of course. Things could only go up from there, right? WRONG!
Things I Disliked
- Ariana Grande was positive shit as Penny Pingleton. Honest to God, her casting was the one I was most apprehensive about, and I was justified in my thoughts. Penny is the epitome of the dorky best friend, not some sexed up mumbler who overacts. Even Grande's vocals seemed subpar at times. Instead of saving the vocal pyrotechnics for the latter part of the show, Grande sang in her normal voice the entire time. She was never Penny; instead, it was Ariana Grande in glasses. For real Pennies, please watch the following video: https://youtu.be/VTO_Duist34
- I feel like a lot of issues could have been fixed had the direction been better. Kenny Leon directed The Wiz Live last year, and it was incredibly well done. I expected something along the same lines, and was pretty much disappointed. A lot of my issues concerning performances really come down to things that Leon should have noticed.
Things I'm On The Fence About
- Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin. He was a very competent Link Larkin, but nothing ever wowed me. His performance was reminiscent of tapioca pudding: perfectly fine, but nothing exciting (unless of course you like tapioca pudding).
- Kristen Chenoweth was good in spurts. I just got very tired of all the high soprano business. I'm perfectly aware she has the notes and the talent to back it up, but she didn't need to pull them out for every single one of her solo numbers.
- Maddie Baillio
- Ephraim Sykes
- Andrea Martin, Sean Hayes, Paul Vogt, Rosie O'Donnell
- Derek Hough
- Dove Cameron
- Martin Short
- Jennifer Hudson
- Harvey Fierstein