Hairspray Is NBC’s Best Live Show Yet

Photo by NBC Universal

By Maddy Epstein

Arts Reporter

On Wednesday December 7th, NBC aired its fourth live musical, Hairspray Live!

While the musical may have only brought in nine million viewers– the channel’s lowest rated musical to date– it was still the best one they’ve put on since they starting broadcasting live shows three years ago.

From Kristin Chenoweth to Ariana Grande, the musical interpretation of John Waters’ 1998 film, Hairspray, featured some of today’s biggest stars in the music and acting industries. The cast list also included a few newcomers like Maddie Baillio and Shahadi Wright Joseph, who played Tracy Turnblad and Little Inez, respectively.

Set in 1962 Baltimore, Hairspray is about teen Tracy Turnblad and her quest to be cast on her and her best friend’s, Penny Pingleton, (played by Grande) favorite local dance program, “The Corny Collins Show”.  After being ridiculed and made fun of for appearance– Tracy is both visually and emotionally larger-than-life, she is chosen to be the newest member of the show. Tracy quickly becomes Baltimore’s newest trendsetter, and an overnight sensation. Dealing with modern day issues such as racism and body-shaming while still keeping the mood light and happy, Hairspray has become one of America’s most beloved movies and musicals. Thanks to the skilled cast and notable director, Kenny Leon, Hairspray Live! carried on this legacy while not straying too far from the original masterpiece.

The two and a half hour musical opened with the famous song, “Good Morning Baltimore”, performed by Baillio.  With few lines forgotten and an impressive dance number to kick things off, this performance was just the first of many unforgettable ones to come. Crowd favorites like “Ladies’ Choice”, “I Can Hear the Bells”, and “Welcome to the 60s” were also performed by these amazing singers during this production. The only main number that was missed was “The New Girl in Town”, which is by far one of the best songs of the whole musical; but this little mishap can be forgiven due to the numerous other high energy and jaw dropping performances.

A particular highlight of the show was Motormouth Maybelle’s power ballad, “I Know Where I’ve Been”, performed by the unstoppable Jennifer Hudson.

The musical ended with the notorious piece “You Can’t Stop the Beat” that highlighted all the characters in a show-stopping routine packed with amazing vocals and dancing from the whole cast. The bright colors and extravagant set only added to the number’s energy. By the look on the actors’ faces, it was clear this was the perfect ending to an incredible and talent-filled live production.