Hairspray Live! Review


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On December 7, 2016, NBC’s newest TV musical, Hairspray Live!, aired. After months of preparation, NBC presented a three hour program with a star-studded cast, including Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Harvey Fierstein, Derek Hough and more. Universal Studios provided a perfect place to recreate Baltimore in the 1960s, with enough space to be the first NBC live musical to incorporate a live audience. The one complaint that many viewers had was regarding the several technical difficulties towards the beginning of the broadcast, including microphones malfunctioning and lights turning off in the middle of solos; however, it seemed that the show ran smoothly once problems were sorted out. Bringing the Corny Collins show to your living room, NBC did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the Broadway production. Intricate choreography and well-made costumes were only a few of the details that created such a memorable performance.

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Maddie Ballio, a new face, stepped into the role of Tracy Turnblad, and although she lead the performance, many could say that the supporting actors truly stood out the most. Ephraim Sykes, a former “Hamilton” ensemble member, played Seaweed J. Stubbs and delivered an outstanding performance of “Run and Tell That.” Hudson, who played Motormouth Maybelle, brought viewers to tears with her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been,” with vocals that sounded as powerful as a studio recording. Other standouts include Chenoweth as sassy Velma von Tussle, who is a natural at performing live, and Shahadi Wright Joseph as an adorable and talented Little Inez. Reviews from SHS students and critiques online mentioned that they were dissatisfied with Fierstein (as Edna Turnblad) and Garrett Clayton’s (as Link Larkin) portrayals of their specifically important and large roles. Both of their vocal abilities did not come close to the other talented performers in the cast, to the point where Hough lead “Ladies’ Choice” in Clayton’s place, a song that Link typically sings in productions of Hairspray. Fortunately, the rest of the cast most definitely did exceed all expectations and helped the performance shine. The production had big shoes to fill following Grease: Live, which aired in January 2016, but overall the cast and crew created a lively and entertaining show for all viewers to enjoy and left everyone singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” the next day.

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by Talia Schulhof

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