comedy, drama, musical

Hairspray Live!

Hairspray Live! - Season 2016

Hairspray Live!, 2016

Another Christmastime, another “Live!” musical. This year NBC chose Hairspray, and unfortunately these overexcited productions seem to get better with time. More than its predecessors, though, Live! was a reminder of how stage doesn’t always translate to screen. From the intro with animatronic rats and men stirring empty coffee cups to a scene “playing” dodgeball, viewers were robbed of the charm of theatre that’s possible thanks to the illusion of distance. Then again, it was neat to see The Corny Collins show on an actual TV. Whether or not you enjoy Hairspray (any version of it) doesn’t matter though, because with this viewing its eerie timeliness and star-filled cast is what made the show.

So much of this musical, primarily about positive body image and establishing desegregation in Baltimore, felt “too soon” as 2016 comes to a close. Lines that may have been funny your last viewing/listening suddenly felt passive aggressive, or like salt in the wound. Worst/Best of all, it made Jennifer Hudson’s “I Know Where I’ve Been” a motivational speech for the US of A. But of course, things have changed since the 60’s. That line about beer being a quarter? Let’s bring that back. And speaking of the past and Hudson (who played Motormouth Mabel), her rendition of “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” made you wonder what Weight Watchers Jennifer would think of all this. The rest of the cast, which included Derek Hough, some Disney stars, Harvey Fierstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, and Ariana Grande playing her SNL Tidal intern Chloe, did well. Newbie Maddie Baillio (playing Tracy Turnblad) stepped up to the challenge, and was at one point flanked by past Tracy’s. It took my viewing party several minutes to solve the tres Turnblad mystery, which featured Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur. Oh, and Hamilton alum Ephraim Sykes blessed everyone as Seaweed. I hope he laughed as hard as I did when Link (Garrett Clayton) exclaimed “I will not throw away my shot!

Unfortunately the mics were not as reliable as the talent and it was often difficult to hear the words above the music. Costumes, on the other hand, were very loud. Shoutout to the Dynamites’ outfits; too bad my office Christmas party is tomorrow and I can’t snag one in time. Even if Tracy was playing tic tac toe with herself in jail and the best song of the night was arguably featured in the Arby’s Fire Roasted Philly ad, Hairspray was fun to watch, and reflect with. What NBC is predicting for 2017 by choosing Bye Bye Birdy as its next live musical is unclear…

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