Hairspray Live! welcomes audiences to the 60s


Brian Bowen Smith/NBC

HAIRSPRAY LIVE! -- Season: 2016 -- Pictured: (l-r) back row: Ephraim Skyes as Seaweed J. Stubbs, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad, Dove Cameron as Amber Von Tussle; middle row: Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad, Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle, front row: Shahadi Wright Joseph as Little Inez, Derek Hough as Corny Collins — (Photo by: Brian Bowen Smith/NBC)

Drew Huddleston

NBC has a winter tradition of doing a one-night-only live musical event for television. In recent years, we’ve seen The Sound of Music Live and Peter Pan Live, both of which were panned by critics.

However, last year, Fox jumped aboard the live music train and beat NBC at their own game. Last year’s live version of the The Wiz, another live program from NBC, was eclipsed by the endless critical praise for Fox’s Grease Live.

While we don’t know what Fox’s next musical will be, what we do have is NBC’s Hairspray Live.

Hairspray revolves around a teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad (Maddie Baillio) living in 1962 Baltimore. Her dream is to join a segregated dancing television program, The Corny Collins Show. When she lands a role on the show, she is showered with praise. Then, she meets Seaweed (Ephraim Sykes), a black teenager who can dance like the wind. She makes it her goal to desegregate the television.

Hairspray has had a long and pretty solid history. It started in 1988, with the John Waters directed movie of the same name. The movie was not a musical, rather a teen drama. It was loved by critics at the time, but it hasn’t necessarily aged well.

In 2002, Hairspray was adapted into a smash hit Broadway musical. The show introduced the world into a slew of great new broadway tunes. Hairspray was later adapted into a 2007 musical film, starring John Travolta, Zac Efron, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes, and Christopher Walken.

Hairspray Live definitely looks and feels like the 2007 film, but the lead singers sound more like the broadway singers.

Presenting a live-broadcast music can has many potential pitfalls, but the feature included very few technical difficulties. While there were a couple of microphone problems early on, they can be overlooked, considering that once they start, there’s no going back. The camera movements were smooth and presented some pretty generic but good angles.

In a musical, there are three major categories in which the performers must excel: Singing, Dancing, and Acting. The stars all present a good bit of talent, but most were solid in only one or two categories.

For example, Harvey Fierstein, who played Edna Turnblad, did a great job with dialogue and acting. He also held his own with the dancing. But when it came to singing, he sounded like a chain smokers trying to sing, mostly speaking the words. The only people that was solid in all three categories were Jennifer Hudson, who played Motormouth Maybelle, and Garrett Clayton, who played Link Larkin.

The costumes and set were amazing. They set really sold that we were in 1962 Baltimore. The costumes were glamorous and matched the characters perfectly. The ensemble singing and dancing was awesome. The songs were matched perfectly with complex, and visually appealing.

Overall, Hairspray Live is a well sung and choreographed musical that was just a little off the dot with its talent.

Grade: B