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All the Things We Loved About Hairspray Live!

It's a war wrapped in a musical!

Malcolm Venable

Well! That was something. NBC's Hairspray Live! didn't just raise the bar for live TV musicals -- it bedazzled it, twirled it around and threw it up in the air while doing cartwheels. Smooth as a Baltimore bouffant, the show looked incredibly polished and nearly surreal in its retro glory. Sure, you could find faults if you wanted to nitpick -- the live audience didn't seem to add much, for example, since jokes zoomed by without a hint of a guffaw; there were some technical glitches and Ariana Grande kind of got lost in the shuffle -- but overall, Hairspray Live! was pretty phenomenal.

Here's what really stood out to us.

That seamless opening
Though she was working alongside some of the biggest names in the business, newcomer Maddie Baillio made us forget she was new from the very first scene as Tracy Turnblad, breezing through numbers including "Good Morning Baltimore" like an old-timer. From there, it fluidly flowed, from "The Nicest Kids in Town" and on, it was can't-take-your-eyes-off TV.

Those perfect sets
The detailing, the pastels, the ultra-precise costumes and, obviously, impenetrable hairdos made us feel transported fully into the vision of the show. The directors' decision to use some 13 cameras, each accentuating the meticulousness of the "Baltimore" streets and bedrooms felt almost as immersive as going to the theater.

Harvey Fierstein
We knew living legend Harvey Fierstein (playing Edna Turnblad) would make everybody remember why he's a marvel, but good grief. That voice! (Delivering the lines he wrote, since he did the teleplay.) That over-it attitude and tired-old-lady gait! That rapport with on-screen husband Martin Short -- especially when they did "(You're) Timeless to Me"? Too perfect.

HKristin Chenoweth

Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad, Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad

Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Kristin Chenoweth, giver of life
Her snide turn as Velma Von Tussle was captivating. Although it's hard to see the angelic Kristin Chenoweth as anything other than angelic, TBH, she really sent everyone to the graveyard with her take on "Miss Baltimore Crabs," which at one point she performed WHILE TWIRLING A BATON.

How it didn't shy away from the statements in the material
Toning down the overt commentary about racism, prejudice and segregation would've been close to impossible since it's 99 percent of the show. But hey, you know 2016. Anything can happen! Just talking about race -- especially in a big primetime, family event like this -- could've made bigwigs nervous because surprise! some people get nervous talking about race. Hairspray, with its outdated term "Negro" intentionally baked into the plot and dialogue, was decidedly subversive and political from the beginning and it's great NBC made no attempt to sanitize it. That protest scene, with Tracy and her pals carrying signs with slogans such as "No More Racism," was a powerful moment in a year already brimming with provocative statements about race on TV.

Hairspray Live!

Hairspray Live!

Justin Lubin/NBC

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"Welcome to the '60s"
In an event packed with over-the-top numbers, this one was a standout. Shot outdoors with a squad of backup dancers and the Supremes-styled girl Dynamites, it also showed us a made-over Edna in her glamorous duds. A hit.

Dove Cameron
She slayed Amber. End of discussion.

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Link Larkin's immaculately made-up face
A significant portion of Hairspray Live! tweets were devoted to the amazingly countered mug of Garrett Clayton, whose face will no doubt be the hot topic of every makeup magician at every MAC counter in America tomorrow.


Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin

Paul Drinkwater/NBC

"Run and Tell That"
Another standout performance. This one went from the gym to a deliciously funky street scene to Motormouth Maybelle's (Jennifer Hudson) record shop, turning the magnificence of the overall production up yet another impressive notch.

Believe it or not, the commercials
It's not often you actually are impressed by commercials, but the partnerships that had brands including Toyota and Oreo making custom, retro-themed spots added yet another layer of polish to the production.

Jennifer Hudson's "I Know Where I've Been"
Did you not get goosebumps?!

And of course, that finale
Solidifying this asNBC's best musical by far, and the one to beat going forward.

What were your favorite moments?