Finally, the time has arrived. The star-studded production adapted from John Waters’ 1988 cult film is beaming straight into our living rooms on Saturday night 10 December at 7:30pm on SBS. Considering the size and scale of the production, the performance promises to please, and even if it doesn’t quite land then who doesn’t love a good live trainwreck?
Here’s why Hairspray Live! deserves an audience.
It’s a television spectacle adapted from a hit musical which was adapted from a hit musical feature film which was adapted from John Waters original 1998 non-musical feature film.
Okay, repeat that back to me.
By the time we reach this year’s television event, John Waters has less and less to do with the project, though played a major role in the original musical adaptation (he even popped up as a cameo in both the 2007 film and various stage versions). The work has taken on a life of its own, and anything that survives that many changes-of-hands must have something going for it.
The Cast and crew
While the original Baltimore-set oddity boasted Ricki Lake dancing iconic choreographed dance scenes to popular music, and the feature film featured a cross-dressing John Travolta married to Christopher Walken, neither can really match the cross-section of talent reserved for the live event.
Written by (and featuring) Broadway icon Harvey Feinstein (also known as that gravel-voiced Jew that plays Robin Williams’ make-up artist brother in Mrs Doubtfie), and headed up by another Broadway icon in Kristen Chenowith, and fans of musicals know they’re in good hands.
Add to that veteran funny-guy Martin Short, versatile performer Jennifer Hudson, talented pop-star Ariana Grande, Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes, Trump’s best friend Rosie O’donnel, and Billy Eichner of Billy On The Street.
All versions of Hairspray have retained the bones of John Waters’ teen dream—and in 2016 we’ve got newcomer Maddie Baillio playing Tracy Turnblad, a heavy-set dance enthusiast whose dream of showing her moves on The Corny Collins Show is not only fulfilled, but leads to overnight stardom.
Surrounded by a colourful cast of outsiders (though far less joyously bizarre than in Waters’ original), Maddie uses her newfound fame to diversify the all-white variety show.
It’s not often that a work goes through several incarnations and finds an audience each time. The original Hairspray remains revered by cinema-goers and critics alike, and subsequent ‘lighter’ adaptations have found massive audiences across the globe.
This pervasiveness is thanks to a timeless capturing of the teen mindset, in all it’s burgeoning, hormonal glory.
If you haven’t given any version of Hairspray a good go, we recommend you tune in to the Live spectacle then go back and see how it’s transformed over the last thirty years.
Better do it quick, as John Waters has written Hairspray 2, and it apparently features a large, singing zit. Though that fact was revealed back in 2013, so, you know, doesn’t need to be that quick.
On Saturday 10 December at 7:30pm the curtain raises on SBS, so whack on your best suit or frock or pants-suit, add your dancing shoes, and enjoy the sugary rhythms of Hairspray Live!