Hairspray Live!

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Hairspray Live!
Hairspray Live Poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Based on
Written byHarvey Fierstein
Directed by
Presented byDarren Criss
Country of originUnited States
Camera setupMulti-camera
Production company(s)
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Sony Pictures Television
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkNBC
Original releaseDecember 7, 2016
Preceded byThe Wiz Live!
Followed byJesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
External links
Official website

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."[1]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[2]

Minor roles

Council members[2]

  • 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

The Dynamites[2]

Motormouth Kids[2]

  • 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

Various ensemble[2]

  • Zack Everhart, Annie Gratton, Thomasina Gross, Allie Meixner, Eliotte Nicole, Tyler Parks, Andrew Pirozzi, Joy Marie Thomas, Keenan Washington, and Jason Williams


Musical numbers[edit]

The musical numbers from the track list of the soundtrack.[7][8]



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),[10] but that he would have been thrilled if John Travolta reprised his role in it.[11]

Kenny Leon returned in his role as director from The Wiz, and was joined by Alex Rudzinski—who co-directed Grease: Live for Fox.[12][13] 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.[14] 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.[13] 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.[7] (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".[13] 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.[15] 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;[9] Winokur and Lake appeared as employees of Mr. Pinky's boutique.[6] 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.[16][17]


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.[18][19]


Critical response[edit]

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."[20] It has a score of 66 from 14 critics on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21]

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..."[22]

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."[23]

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." [24]

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+.[25]


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.[26][27] An encore presentation, which aired on December 27, was seen by 2.5 million viewers.[28]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominated artist/work Result Ref.
Art Directors Guild Awards Awards or Event Special Derek McLane Nominated [29]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Miniseries or TV Film Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski Nominated [30]
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 [31]
MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Musical Moment "You Can't Stop the Beat" Nominated [32]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Special Class Program Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Alex Rudzinski, Javier Winnik, Kenny Leon, Robert Norris Catto Nominated [33]
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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Petski, Denise (April 25, 2016). "Jennifer Hudson & Harvey Fierstein To Topline NBC's 'Hairspray Live'". Deadline. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hetrick, Adam. "Billy Eichner Added to 'Hairspray Live!' — Full Cast Revealed" Playbill, September 21, 2016
  3. ^ Kennedy,Mark. "Comedian Andrea Martin joins ‘Hairspray Live!’ cast" The Washington Post, August 18, 2016
  4. ^ Snetiker, Marc. "Billy Eichner Joins 'Hairspray Live' ", September 21, 2016
  5. ^ a b Holloway, Stanley. "Rosie O'Donnell Sean Hayes Join 'Hairspray Live' Cast" Variety, August 2, 2016
  6. ^ a b " 'Hairspray Live' Marissa Jaret Winokur Ricki Lake Maddie Baillio Cast Cameo Quotes#.WDiiIKIrIy4, November 12, 2016
  7. ^ a b Gioia, Michael. "Musical Numbers for 'Hairspray Live!' Revealed", Playbill, November 4, 2016
  8. ^ "Hairspray LIVE! Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event" Amazon, Retrieved October 24, 2016
  9. ^ a b Gioia, Michael. "Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson Will Duet on 'Hairspray Live!' Finale" Playbill, November 16, 2016
  10. ^ "Craig Zadan and Neil Meron Signed to Produce New Line Cinema's Musical Film Version of Hairspray". Time Warner. November 29, 2004. Retrieved August 20, 2007.
  11. ^ Abrams, Natalie (January 13, 2016). "Hairspray live musical coming to NBC in December". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  12. ^ "Hairspray Live Is Figuring Out How to Perfect the Live Musical". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c Clement, Olivia. "Exclusive: 'Hairspray Live! 'to Feature Live Audience and New Songs", Playbill, April 26, 2016
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Kenny Leon, Jerry Mitchell and Harvey Fierstein Will Bring 'Hairspray' to Life for NBC; Broadcast Date Set ", Playbill, February 18, 2016
  15. ^ "Hairspray Live! casts newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  16. ^ "Odds & Ends: Darren Criss Hops on the Hairspray Live! Beat, Idina Menzel & Jennifer Nettles Belt for Baby Jesus & More". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  17. ^ "Kristin Chenoweth & Sean Hayes to Co-Host Hairspray Live! Pre-Show". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  18. ^ "Reddi-Wip is Camera-Ready in 'Hairspray Live!': It's Last Night's New Ads". Advertising Age. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  19. ^ "Live Commercials to Air During NBCU's 'Hairspray'". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  20. ^ "Hairspray Live! (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  21. ^ "Hairspray Live! Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  22. ^ Genzlinger, Neil. "Review: ‘Hairspray Live!’ Had Power Voices but Still Lacked Power" The New York Times, December 8, 2016
  23. ^ Saraiya, Sonia. "TV Review: ‘Hairspray Live!’" Variety, December 8, 2016
  24. ^ Bunch, Rebecca. "Hairspray Live! (Spoiler-Free) Review: NBC's Live Musical is A-mazing’" The TV Ratings Guide, December 8, 2016
  25. ^ Siede, Caroline. "An exuberant Hairspray Live! offers a light in the darkness’" The A.V. Club, December 8, 2016
  26. ^ Bunch, Rebecca (December 8, 2016). "TV Ratings 12/7/16: Hairspray Live! Is Not Huge, but it still brings down ABC's Ratings (UPDATED)". The TV Ratings Guide. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  27. ^ Gans, Andrew. " 'Hairspray Live!' Ratings Down from Last Season’s 'The Wiz' " Playbill, December 8, 2016
  28. ^ TV News Desk. "Encore Telecast of NBC's HAIRSPRAY LIVE! Delivers 2.5 Million Viewers Overall" Broadway World, December 27, 2016
  29. ^ Hipes, Patrick. "Art Directors Guild Awards Nominations: 'Rogue One', 'Game Of Thrones' & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  30. ^ Hipes, Patrick. "DGA TV Awards Nominations: 'Stranger Things', 'Westworld' & 'Atlanta' On List; Docus Include 'OJ: Made In America'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  31. ^ Giardina, Carolyn. "'Fantastic Beasts' Leads Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Feature Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  32. ^ Lakshmin, Deepa (May 2, 2017). "The "Cash Me Outside" Meme Is An MTV Movie & TV Awards Nominee, How Bout Dat?". MTV. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  33. ^ "Hairspray Live - Awards & Nominations". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2017.

External links[edit]