Even though I should be studying for finals, I spent my finals week cuddled up in front of the TV, watching NBC's annual live broadcasted musical: Hairspray Live!. NBC has now made it a December tradition to air a live musical every year. First was The Sounds of Music, then Peter Pan and most recently The Wiz. This year's pick was Hairspray, which was based on the John Water's film in 1988. This musical tells the story of racial divides and social outcasts in 1962, a message that is still relevant today.
The cast included stars such as Ariana Grade, Kristin Chenoweth, Rosie O'Donnell, Derek Hough and Jennifer Hudson. Some of the most memorable performances were from Jennifer Hudson, who played Motormouth Maybelle, bringing some major sass to "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" as well as leaving the audience speechless after "I Know Where I've Been".
In addition, famed dancer Derek Hough really brought his skills to the performance. Not only did he play Corny Collins as a sinigng host but also as a dancer. He rocked his moves in "Ladies' Choice". Also, Ephraim Sykes, a Hamilton veteran, who played Seaweed brought new moves in "Run and Tell That". Also, the costumes designed by Emmy-nominated designer Mary E. Vogt popped on the screen. The vibrant colors and fabrics shone, bringing the world of Hairspray to life.
However, there was plenty to criticize about this year's live musical. For starters, the Washington Post writes how newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnbald lacked the confidence to pull off the role. Although she gave an "endearing and earnest performance" she did not meet the standard vocally set by others in the cast. Harvey Fierstein who played Tracy's mother, Edna, returned to the role that he previously played on Broadway. Although he may be more energetic in the theater, he did not match up to John Travolta in the 2007 film version of the musical.
The New York Times reported that Hairspray Live! was NBC's lowest-rated live musical. Although the broadcast had nine million viewers on Wednesday, it was the lowest-rated out of NBC's live musicals. Last year's The Wiz Live! had 11.5 million viewers and The Sound of Music had a record of 18.6 million viewers.
Despite the low viewership, live broadcasted musicals are here to stay. NBC has already announced the airing of Bye Bye Birdie in December 2017 and a live version of A Few Good Men. Hopefully NBC will learn from their mistakes and continue to create musicals that amaze audiences across the country.