From the time when the 2007 Hairspray movie was released in theaters, I have absolutely loved it. I remember driving to school every day listening to all the songs and singing every word, having a picture of the cast on my birthday cake, seeing it on Broadway, watching the move countless times, and even dressing up as Edna for Halloween one year.
This being said, when I heard that this year’s live television musical would be Hairspray: Live!, to say that I was excited would have been an understatement. The wait for it to air seemed endless, but it finally came to an end this past Wednesday, December 7 on NBC. As much as I was looking forward to it, I would be lying to say that I was not just a little bit nervous that it would not live up to my expectations. Now, I can more than happily say that not only did it meet my expectations, but it exceeded them.
Entertainment Weekly called the production “a well-earned victory lap,” while USA Today says it was “NBC’s best live musical,” and I could not agree more. It was one of those rare situations that you knew from the very beginning—in this case, when you heard the first beats of “God Morning Baltimore”—that it was sure to be a hit. Then again, how could it not have been? With a cast including Ariana Grande (Penny Pingleton), Derek Hough (Corny Collins), Garret Clayton (Link Larkin), Ephraim Sykes (Seaweed Stubbs), Harvey Fierstein (Edna Turnblad), Martin Short (Wilbur Turnblad), Dove Cameron (Amber Von Tussle), Kristin Chenoweth (Velma Von Tussle), Jennifer Hudson (Motormouth Maybelle), and introducing Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad), every person was more talented than the next.
Anyone who knows anything about Hairspray knows that it is a powerful story with energetic music. Looking at all the performances of the night, while they were all fantastic, for me, there were a few stand-outs. First, there was “Welcome To The 60s.” It has always been one of my favorites, and I thought that Maddie Baillio and Harvey Fierstein made it such an engaging and fun number, not to mention an appearance by Sean Hayes as Mr. Pinky to make it even better! Then, there was Jennifer Hudson’s moving performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been,” and of course, the always lively fan-favorite “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” which ended the show on an incredibly high note.
After watching the whole show, I honestly feel that this will be the NBC live musical to top. From beginning to end, it was enjoyable, and what probably added to making it so special is the story that Hairspray tells, which goes so far beyond just acting, singing and dancing. When it comes down to it, it teaches you that no matter who you are, you can achieve anything you want to and no matter how hard it may seem, you should have every ability to do so. As Tracy sings, “Yes, I know that the world’s/Spinning fast now/But you gotta run the race/To win the prize.” I believe that the entire cast of Hairspray: Live! clearly conveyed this message to every single person who was watching that night, and I think that in itself made their performance spectacular.