|Written by||Harvey Fierstein|
|Presented by||Darren Criss|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution|
Sony Pictures Television
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
|Original release||December 7, 2016|
|Preceded by||The Wiz Live!|
|Followed by||Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert|
Hairspray Live! is a television special that aired live on NBC on December 7, 2016. Produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and hosted by Darren Criss, it is a performance of a new adaptation of the 2002 Broadway musical Hairspray.
Hairspray Live! takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including Link, the resident dreamboat; Amber, the ambitious mean girl; Seaweed, an African-American boy she meets in detention; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white Corny Collins Show."
Cast and characters
- Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad
- Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad
- Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad
- Jennifer Hudson as Maybelle "Motormouth" Stubbs
- Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton
- Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle
- Derek Hough as Corny Collins
- Dove Cameron as Amber Von Tussle
- Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin
- Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed J. Stubbs
- Shahadi Wright Joseph as Inez Stubbs
- Riley Costello as Brad
- Marissa Heart as Tammy
- Mason Trueblood as Fender
- Jacque Lewarne as Brenda
- Ricky Schroeder as Sketch
- Helene Britany as Shelley
- Sam Faulkner as I.Q.
- Kelli Ann Erdmann as Lou Ann
- Katherine Roarty as Kooks
- Heather Tepe as Belle
- Tommy Martinez as Corey
- Karl Skyler Urban as Jon
- Kamilah Marshall
- Judine Somerville
- Shayna Steele
- Joshua Alexander as James
- Will B. Bell as Duane
- Joanna Jones as Genie Mae
- Tiana Okoye as Lorraine
- Amos Oliver III as Thad
- Re'sean Pates as Jackie
- Rhon Saunders as Gilbert
- Zack Everhart, Annie Gratton, Thomasina Gross, Allie Meixner, Eliotte Nicole, Tyler Parks, Andrew Pirozzi, Joy Marie Thomas, Keenan Washington, and Jason Williams
- Ricki Lake (Tracy Turnblad in the original 1988 film) and Marissa Jaret Winokur (original Tracy Turnblad on Broadway) as Mr. Pinky's Girls
Hairspray Live! served as NBC's fourth entry in its series of made-for-TV musical telecasts, behind The Wiz Live!, Peter Pan Live!, and The Sound of Music Live!. As with its predecessors, it was executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The project was revealed by NBC's entertainment head Bob Greenblatt during a Television Critics Association press tour in January 2016. In response to early reports that NBC was considering a live version of The Music Man, West Side Story or Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Greenblatt stated that "people have been saying to me since The Wiz, 'Do this show, do that show.' I've heard obscure titles and famous titles. Not everything's going to be a big name to the whole audience. I don’t think there's an infinite number of these that can be done. But we're still doing it." He explained that the production would not try to emulate the 2007 film (also produced by Zadan and Meron), but that he would have been thrilled if John Travolta reprised his role in it.
Kenny Leon returned in his role as director from The Wiz, and was joined by Alex Rudzinski—who co-directed Grease: Live for Fox. The musical was adapted for television by Harvey Fierstein from the original book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Jerry Mitchell, the choreographer of the Broadway version of Hairspray, was also involved with the adaptation. In contrast to NBC's previous musicals, Hairspray Live! was produced from the Universal Studios backlot; Greenblatt explained that a "fair amount" of the show would be staged in outdoor settings, and thus "have a real exuberance in the open air." Additionally, live audiences were integrated into relevant scenes as extras on-stage, such as bystanders in Baltimore, and as the studio audience of The Corny Collins Show. Two numbers written for the 2007 film, "Ladies' Choice” and "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)", were incorporated into the production. "The Big Dollhouse", from the Broadway show, was cut, while "The New Girl In Town", written for the stage show but cut and only used in the film, was not added. (An instrumental version of the song is, however, heard very briefly as a bit of background music.)
In addition to adapting the book, Fierstein reprised his performance of Edna Turnblad from the Broadway musical; Greenblatt felt that his performance of Edna was "iconic", and that his involvement with Hairspray Live! made it "come full circle". NBC cast the lead role of Tracy Turnblad through an open call in New York City, hoping to repeat the "phenomenal discovery" of Shanice Williams for The Wiz. The role went to college sophomore Maddie Baillio, as her first professional role. In November 2016, it was announced that Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur (who portrayed Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 film and the Broadway version respectively) would make cameo appearances; Winokur and Lake appeared as employees of Mr. Pinky's boutique. Darren Criss served as an on-air host, hosting a half-hour Countdown to Hairspray Live! show on NBC with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes, as well as behind-the-scenes reports throughout the live broadcast.
Oreo, Reddi-wip, and Toyota broadcast live, themed commercials during Hairspray Live!; Oreo's ad featured the character of Corny Collins, Reddi-wip's ad featured a milkman character (Evan Strand) backstage and performing a dance number, while Toyota's ad featured a vintage Toyota Corolla and a current model in celebration of the vehicle's 50th anniversary.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the special holds a 76% rating based on 26 reviews, with an average of 8.2/10. The site's consensus states: "Hairspray Live! shimmers with outstanding performances, an engaging story, and songs that let its stars shine." It has a score of 66 from 14 critics on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The New York Times reviewer wrote: "NBC lassoed some talented performers with fine singing voices but sacrificed cohesion by cramming the evening with too much interstitial fluff.... Only Jennifer Hudson, who played Motormouth Maybelle, found the real strength of this Tony-winning musical, delivering a knockout rendition of 'I Know Where I've Been'..." He noted that Baillio "did pretty well, though no novice is going to compete with voices like those of Ms. Hudson and Kristin Chenoweth..."
The Variety reviewer wrote that it "took a few musical numbers to settle into a rhythm. But once it did (the energy seemed to kick in with "Welcome to the ‘60s") the musical easily became the best NBC has attempted. It's hard to imagine better casting for the production. Jennifer Hudson stole the show... Ariana Grande, certifiable pop star, came away as the show's MVP, acting as both reliably overlook-able sidekick and, once the situation required it, showstopping diva. Harvey Fierstein was predictably great... Martin Short... found the right profile for himself as Wilbur."
The TV Ratings Guide reviewer wrote that the production "was truly a great experience through and through." They praised the entire cast, stating "the casting was just top notch", and praised Grande and Hudson in particular. They named 'You Can't Stop the Beat' the best musical moment of the night and stated that "they really knocked it out of the park." They stated that "NBC really put together something amazing here." 
The A.V. Club's reviewer wrote that "As a piece of social commentary, tonight’s production of Hairspray Live! was just about flawless." They stated that Dove Cameron and Ephraim Sykes were "consistently fun to watch", and that Chenoweth and Hudson "were the biggest scene-stealers." They said that Fierstein, Short, and Martin "were all wonderful as well." They rated the telecast a B+.
Hairspray Live! was seen by 9.05 million viewers, with a ratings share of 2.3 in the 18–49 demographic, and a 5.9 overnight household rating. It was the most-viewed program of the night, with numbers on par with those of Peter Pan. An encore presentation, which aired on December 27, was seen by 2.5 million viewers.
Awards and nominations
|Art Directors Guild Awards||Awards or Event Special||Derek McLane||Nominated|||
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directing – Miniseries or TV Film||Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski||Nominated|||
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards||Television Mini-Series or Movie Made for Television - Best Period/Character Make-Up||Melanie Hughes and Judy Yonemoto||Nominated|||
|MTV Movie & TV Awards||Best Musical Moment||"You Can't Stop the Beat"||Nominated|||
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Special Class Program||Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Alex Rudzinski, Javier Winnik, Kenny Leon, Robert Norris Catto||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming||Mary Vogt, Carolyn Dessert-Lauterio||Nominated|
|Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special||Miia Kovero, Terry Baliel, Roxane Griffin, Lawrence Davis, Jill Crosby, Joy Zapata||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special||Allen Branton, Felix Peralta, Kevin Lawson, Darren Langer, Kirk J. Miller||Nominated|
|Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic)||Melanie Hughes-Weaver, Judy Yonemoto, Jill Cady, Julie Socash, Shutchai Tym Buacharern, Angela Moos||Nominated|
|Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Event or Award Special||Derek McLane, Joe Celli, Jason Howard||Won|
|Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special||Charles Ciup, Billy Steinberg, Chris Hill, Bert Atkinson, Randy Gomez, Nathanial Havholm, Ron Lehman, Bettina Levesque, Dave Levisohn, Tore Livia, Mike Malone, Adam Margolis, Rob Palmer, Brian Reason, Damien Tuffereau, Andrew Waruszewski||Won|
- 2016 in American television
- The Sound of Music Live (2015)
- Grease: Live (2016), Fox
- A Christmas Story Live! (2017), Fox
- Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (2018), NBC
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- Genzlinger, Neil. "Review: ‘Hairspray Live!’ Had Power Voices but Still Lacked Power" The New York Times, December 8, 2016
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