Hairspray LIVE: A Review

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Hairspray LIVE: A Review

Austin C., Copy Editor

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On Wednesday, December 7, NBC released ‘Hairspray: LIVE!’ the TV networks fourth addition to their trend of releasing live musicals every year, beginning with The Sound of Music LIVE in 2013, Peter Pan LIVE in 2014, and The Wiz LIVE in 2015. These musical recreations got moderate reviews, but NBC hopes to step up their game with Hairspray. Produced similarly to last years Grease: LIVE from FOX, this year’s Hairspray LIVE will be performed 40% outdoors, on a studio lot, and will have many of the same people working on the two projects.

I’ll be ‘grading’ this broadcast in five categories: Set, Cast, Choreography, Singing, and level of fangirling, which I take part in frequently.”

Joining the Hairspray Live cast include former Wicked star Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle, Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Harvey Fierstein reprising his role as Edna Turnblad, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, and newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy.

I was anxiously awaiting the release of this production since its announcement last year, so here are my opinions on how this year’s live musical hold up. I’ll be ‘grading’ this broadcast in five categories: Set, Cast, Choreography, Singing, and level of fangirling, which I take part in frequently.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

So first off, let me start with set. Hairspray LIVE does a great job of taking advantage of the space, with a very busy set, and some pretty flawless transitions from locations. However, the time the show was being taped certainly takes away from the experience. Unless, of course, Tracy wakes up at three in the morning. Hairspray LIVE’s set gets an 8/10.

Next, I’m going to make some comments on the casts chemistry together, who rocked it, and who didn’t. Harvey Fierstein was amazing once again as Edna, his iconic voice and looks adding a plus to the role compared to John Travolta in 2007. I love Kristin Chenoweth, and she was amazing as Velma, as I knew she would be. Newcomer Maddie Baillio killed it, with the perfect combination of talents to expertly pull off Tracy Turnblad. A surprise for me though was Dove Cameron, playing Amber Von Tussle. This young actress has great range, great comedic timing, and all-around amazed me in numbers such as ‘Mama I’m A Big Girl Now’ and ‘Cooties’. The actor playing Link Larkin was very expressionless, and a little flat, but the one thing he’s good at? Standing still. That sounds like a joke, but his stage freezes in ‘I Can Hear The Bells’ was good enough to rival even the best of Mannequin Challenges. The actor playing Seaweed could dance, but was flat and unimpressive in ‘Run and Tell That.’ But by far, the most amazing performance goes to Jennifer Hudson during ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. Hudson blew each performance before it out of the water, belting some truly incredible vocals, and even tearing up along with the rest of the cast as she inspired us all with a fantastic number about never giving up. Cast from me, gets another 8/10, for having such great performances by Kristin Chenoweth  Jennifer Hudson and more, but slightly disappointing performances from others.

Next up: Choreography. The choreography in this live broadcast was good, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before with other productions of Hairspray. Great at times with numbers like ‘Ladies Choice’ and ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’, it does nothing that made me think: “Wow, I’ve never seen that before.” Choreography gets a 5/10.

Now let’s take a look at vocals. As previously mentioned, Jennifer Hudson had easily the best song performance of the show. However, second has to go to ‘Mama I’m a Big Girl Now’, with the combined vocals of Maddie Baillio, Dove Cameron, and Ariana Grande. Some honorable mentions include ‘Welcome To The 60’s’, and ‘(The legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs’. However, there are a few things I’d like to talk about in particular. Whoever over at NBC decided to give ‘Ladies Choice’ to Corny Collins instead of Link deserves a raise. As stated before, I wasn’t particularly fond of the actor playing Link, and giving it to Corny puts the number in a whole new light, which I loved seeing through fresh eyes. The main problem I found was Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed, who just didn’t live up to my expectations from seeing the character in the past. Singing gets an 8/10.

Before we get into the last category, fangirl, which will just be me praising this show, I want to take a moment to talk about the flaws that this show did suffer from. First off, mic issues were a big problem during the songs, especially in the opening number ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. Also, something that just kept bugging me about the show; Darren Criss. Don’t get me wrong, I love Darren Criss, but he was a bit of an annoyance. He served as the show’s host, and I squealed when I saw him. However, I thought he’d only be there for the beginning and end of the show. Boy was I wrong. Criss was there each time the show cut to black, telling us facts about the show, and giving us a backstage sneak peek. Interesting, sure, but unnecessary.

As a broadway fanatic, I must say, I loved this show. Sure, it suffered here and there, but it brought back memories from my first times seeing and loving Hairspray, and the star-filled cast made me love it even more. ”

Now, my personal favorite category, fangirl. As a broadway fanatic, I must say, I loved this show. Sure, it suffered here and there, but it brought back memories from my first times seeing and loving Hairspray, and the star-filled cast made me love it even more. In particular, I have to say, despite the mic flaws in ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ it got me excited for the show, and showed me what I could expect. Commercials are always a drag, but this show makes them a joy to watch, making almost all of them 60’s themed, not to mention, commercials within the show, such as Corny Collins doing an Oreo add. When the commercials weren’t Hairspray related, they showed a small ‘backstage view’ in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, which is always fun to look at.Not only that, but Link’s “I am not throwing away my shot” line was a great nod to the newest and most popular broadway musical out right now, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Fangirling gets an 11/10, would fangirl again.

Overall, I enjoyed this musical, and thought it truly was ‘The Live Musical of The Holiday Season’. Hairspray’s messages can still be applied to today, which is why it’s ever more important that you watch it. If you missed it on the sixth, NBC has announced that it will rebroadcast the live presentation December 26 from 8-11 PM.

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