NBC's Hairspray Live! is an adaptation of the 2002 Broadway musical, which prompted the 2007 movie — all of which is based on the 1988 John Waters film. Got all that? It's a lot of Hairspray, sure, but don't let it make your brain foggy. Hairspray's story is a simple (and wonderful) heart-warming tale of a teenager fighting for equality.
That said, NBC's live version airing Wednesday is very complex, marshaling A-list stars and the best experts of the stage in the business. After Fox followed up its excellent Grease Live! — which garnered some 12 million viewers — with the flop Rocky Horror Picture Show, NBC now has the ball back in its court and the impetus to stage the year's best live TV musical. Judging by all that's going into it, the network might pull it off. Here's everything you need to know about NBC's Hairspray Live!
Hairspray is a fun musical about outsiders, race relations and coming together
Hairspray is set in 1960's Baltimore, where the city is still by and large segregated. Tracy Turnblad (played by newcomer Maddie Baillio) really, really wants to get on The Corny Collins Show, a popular local dance TV series. She's an unlikely choice though, partially because of her weight. But when she befriends black kids at school, she's soon given the moves and courage to get on the show... and then the conviction to see the show fully integrated.
Hairspray Live! is packed with mega talents
Harvey Fierstein plays Edna Turnblad. Vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson will portray Motormouth Maybelle, a local celebrity/R&B diva who hosts a "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show and helps instill confidence in Tracy. Ariana Grande appears as Penny, Tracy's friend who begins an interracial romance. Derek Hough plays Corny Collins, the aptly named host of the show. Kristin Chenoweth will portray Velma Von Tussle, mom of diva Amber (Dove Cameron) and ardent foe of race-mixing. Martin Short plays Edna's husband (and father of Tracy) Wilbur, who helps his daughter integrate the show. All these people — especially Hudson, Chenoweth, Grande and Fierstein — bring thousands of hours of experience in theater and music, so you can pretty much expect the hairs on your arms to raise, stand up and clap when they start letting loose.
Hairspray Live! put the best in the game behind the scenes too
If NBC wasn't playing around with the on-screen talent, it's clear someone said, "Finish them" Mortal Kombat style when deciding who'd put the show on. Kenny Leon, Tony-winning director with more than 30 years experience in blockbuster theater productions, is at the helm of Hairspray Live!, after making The Wiz Live! a hit last year. He's joined by technical director Alex Rudzinski, who NBC hired after his success with Grease Live! on Fox. Hairspray Live! also boasts Neil Meron and Craig Zadan from NBC's previous live shows; it also has vets of the original Broadway production, choreographer Jerry Mitchell and Harvey Fierstein, who did the teleplay. Of course, Fierstein won a Tony for his work as Edna in the Broadway production, making this a rare treat we're actually not worthy to see for (practically) free.
Hairspray Live! includes a lot of experiments, including outdoor scenes
Some 40 percent of the show will take place outdoors on the Universal backlot in Los Angeles — as opposed to the Long Island studio NBC's previous shows were staged — and the show will be filmed in front of a live audience. Some of the more than 1,000 people working on the event include craftsmen who've meticulously recreated the set to look like 1960s Baltimore, and Leon has said they're using some 13 cameras and will use golf carts to quickly shuttle people between the two sounds sets. Of course, it never rains in Los Angeles (OK, rarely) but if it does, producers have put tarps above the sets. Then again, they may just roll with it and "just play it in the rain," NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt told Playbill. The show is using drones too, the LA Times notes.
You don't have to wait for the show to start singing along!
The soundtrack, which contains some songs from the movie, is already out. You can hear it here.
Will you be watching Hairspray Live!?
Hairspray Live! airs Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8/7c on NBC.