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…


The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door, 2014

The Boy Next Door, 2015

Sometimes you need a movie filled with questionable outfits, clumsy sexual innuendoes, and Jennifer Lopez. The Boy Next Door, the unintentional thriller-comedy with a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, made me laugh harder than even I anticipated, and I went into this hoping for the worst. In case you missed the ads and mockery at its release, Door tells the story of Claire (doe-eyed Lopez), a high school classics teacher whose marriage is falling apart. Meanwhile, she and her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson), befriend the new neighbor, Noah (Ryan Guzman), which leads to everything going horribly wrong. Don’t let the title fool you; Noah is a man. And he will kill you.

Noah’s moved in since his Uncle Bob (Jack Wallace) is getting surgery and needs help (though Uncle Bob seems just fine and then disappears). Noah admits to Kevin that he’s 20 but needs to finish school because of “the accident,” but Claire doesn’t know that Noah could be (and becomes) one of her students, making the window flirting and “family” dinners all the more uncomfortable. It’s an R rated “You Belong With Me,” without the giant notepad. One night, Noah tries to microwave an entire chicken, which leads to Claire making him dinner and being seduced. Their one night stand becomes a regret for Claire and an obsession for Noah, turning him into a J. Crew outfitted stalker with a freaky amount of knowledge regarding computers, Homer, and cars, to name a few.

My notes and thoughts on this movie are all over the place, because the plot is too. Why does Claire look at herself while wearing a silk romper but then change into normal underwear before her double date?  Why is Kristin Chenoweth in this film (as a vice principal and Claire’s best friend, and assumedly bronzer-stealer, Vicky) and where did she get that ice cream cone? Who cleaned up the graffiti from Fall Fling? How is Noah still in school after severely beating up an Ed Sheeran lookalike? Honestly if these questions don’t intrigue you, you’re not worthy of Door. It begs to be torn apart and it is such a blast to count the number of muscle shots (I lost track), question how someone covered in gasoline could avoid being caught on fire, wonder how much John Corbett was paid for this… And while the story and acting is comical, the movie remains semi-suspenseful, leading my father at one point to scream, “Whose heart is pounding right now?!” And yes, I watched this with multiple people, including my father. Worth it.