It’s the cult-movie that became a hit Broadway musical, a Hollywood blockbuster and is set to be a live television musical event. Hairspray Live! is the latest in a fast-forming live musical TV tradition following the mega-success of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz and 2016’s Grease Live!
The show – based on John Waters’ 1988 cult-film – boasts an array of Broadway and Hollywood talent such as Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth and Harvey Fierstein. Set in Baltimore, 1962, Hairspray Live! is the story of teenager Tracy Turnblad, who has one burning passion—dancing. When her dream of landing a role on The Corny Collins Show comes true, she becomes an overnight celebrity and an unlikely advocate for racial integration.
Here’s six reasons why you can enjoy a Hairspray Live! sugar-rush.
See Ariana Grande Bring Her Lollipop A-Game
Before she conquered the pop charts with songs like ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Side to Side’, Ariana Grande was a Broadway brat – an understudy in Jason Robert Brown’s 13. Now she’s playing Tracy Turnblad’s nerdy BFF, Penny Pingleton. In the 2007 movie, Amanda Bynes played Penny with a penchant for chomping lollipops. We know through her socials that Ariana has good lollipop-lovin’ form. We also know she has the killer voice to smash songs like ‘Without Love’. Does she have reserves of inner-dork to tap into? No doubt.
The Diva Vocal Showdown: Jennifer Hudson v. Kristin Chenoweth
Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth will revel tapping into her evil side as the hysterically bitchy Velma Von Tussle, producer of the Corny Collins Show. Snobby, self-important, racist, a real piece of work - that’s Velma in a nutshell. “Let me show you how your Mommy dear took out the competition,” she sings in ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’. “Those poor runner-ups might still hold some grudges, they padded their cups but I screwed the judges.”
Dreamgirls Oscar-winner turned Grammy-singer turned The Color Purple Broadway star, Jennifer Hudson is no stranger to big, stage-shaking moments. As Motormouth Maybelle, she’s armed with several showstoppers like the body-image anthem, ‘Big, Blonde & Beautiful’ – “All shapes and sizes, follow me. Who wants a twig when you can climb the whole tree?” Motormouth also leads a cry for racial equality through the streets of Baltimore with, ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ – “There's a dream in the future, there's a struggle we have yet to win.”
Revel in the Gravel Tones of the very best Edna Turnblad, Harvey Fierstein
If you don't know Harvey Fierstein by sight, you know him by that voice. A scratchy rasp that sounds like the actor spent his teenage years barking like a seal. As Edna Turnblad, Fierstein was the heart and soul of the original 2003 Broadway production eclipsing John Travolta’s movie version. For Hairspray Live!, Fierstein’s not only reprising his role as Edna, he’s written the teleplay. Also, watch out for Martin Short as Edna’s husband, Wilbur Turnblad.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For Hot Cameos
It’ll be a pitch battle for the spotlight amongst the high-profile cameos. Rosie O’Donnell, who last tread the Broadway boards in the 2004 production of Fiddler on the Roof opposite Harvey Fierstein, is stepping out as the Gym Teacher.
Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes, who’s been starring in the Broadway smash, An Act of God, is the fashion doyen Mr. Pinky, who owns an illustrious store for plus-size women.
Meanwhile, comedian Billy Eichner takes time out from JUMP-STARTING in PEOPLE’S FACES on Billy On the Street to take on the role of newscaster, Rob Barker, who covers Tracy Turnblad’s prison escapade. “It’s a small but pivotal role,” Eichner joked recently. “I’m just happy to be invited.”
Catch Stars on the Rise
The role of ‘pleasantly plumb’ Tracy Turnblad helped launch the careers of future daytime talk show host Ricki Lake in the 1988 film, and Nikki Blonsky in the 2007 remake. This time ’round, Texan newcomer Maddie Baillio is playing Tracy.
The apple of Tracy’s eye, the dreamy Link Larkin, is portrayed by Garrett Clayton, who like Zac Efron, got his start at Disney. Another Disney upstart – Dove Cameron – will star as Thelma Von Tussle’s mean-girl daughter, Amber. Derek Hough, who plays the charismatic Corny Collins, has been a star on the West End, Broadway and the US version of Dancing With the Stars, taking out six championships. Derek’s sister, Julianne, played Sandy in Grease Live!
Join the Social Media Meltdown
Watching live musicals on TV is communal, big village viewing. Last year, twitter went ballistic with the premiere of The Wiz Live! inspiring 7.5 billion hashtag impressions in the first hour, including an outrageous backlash by viewers who saw the all-black cast as ‘racist’. This year, social media again went into meltdown with Grease Live! Anna Kendrick was just one star who live tweeted the entire production. No question that The Wiz + Grease = Hairspray Live! and will inspire some incredibly amusing meta-commentary.
Hairspray Live! airs on SBS on Saturday 10 December at 7:30pm