NBC's version of the musical airs Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Whether an old fan of “Hairspray” — the 1988 big-screen musical written by John Waters about a girl in Baltimore who wants to get onto a local television dance show — or a newcomer who plans to see the classic for the first time on NBC’s “Hairspray Live!,” there’s plenty to keep you hopping.
The show, which is at its heart about segregation, race riots, interracial romance and inclusion, became a Tony-winning Broadway musical and was reincarnated as a 2007 movie before the production that airs live at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, on NBC. The network will host a pre-game show, “Countdown to Hairspray Live!,” at 7:30 p.m.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind before you enjoy the show:
1. ECHOES OF THE PAST AND PRESENT: Although the production is set in Baltimore in 1962, the message of unity, equality and inclusion is timeless and as relevant to today’s mood, as ever.
“Tracy believes that everyone should be equal, everyone should be dancing together,” Maddie Baillio, who plays Tracy Turnblad, told the LA Times. “I’m so glad it’s making the rounds again. Yes, the show is fun and there are some campy parts. But there are some real, powerful moments in there that are needed today in a world where it sometimes feels like there is so much hate.”
Director Kenny Leon told The Times, “It’s the kind of musical that our country needs right now. This is a part of our history that can’t be ignored and it’s relevant today in this country when race relations are the way they are. And, even beyond that, no matter how you voted, we need to find ways to unify ourselves. We have been so focused on what has divided us.”
2. LIVE COMMERCIALS: In addition to a truly live performance, the network will be experimenting with airing live advertisements, which hearken back to the early days of television, according to the Associated Press. NBC is hoping the innovative approach will keep viewers from fast forwarding through the commercials. Among them will be a 1960s-styled Toyota ad featuring a 2017 Corolla alongside a 50-year-old model of the car and one in which actor Derek Hough, who plays Corny Collins in the production, will stay in character and tout the virtues of Oreo cookies.
3. ORIGINAL STARS: Look for cameo appearances from Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur who played Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 movie and the Broadway production respectively. What will their parts be? No one knows. It’s a surprise!
4. SONG CHOICE: Listen for two of four new songs that were written for the stage production of the show, “Ladies’ Choice” and “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)” to be included in the “Live” production.
5. SHOUTOUTS GALORE: Enjoy watching for snags as the cast and crew race back and forth between the inside studio and Universal Studio’s backlot, which has been made to look like a colorful version of Baltimore in 1962 and in which 40 percent of the shooting will take place. Look also for homage paid to the original cast and crew with the Waters Plumbing and Divine Pet Food storefronts.
6. NO SINGING FROM GRANDE: Don’t look for a solo by pop superstar Ariana Grande, who plays Penny Pingleton, who wanted no special concessions because she loved the original too much.
“I’m not just saying that it has literally been a dream of mine since the original Broadway cast, since Kerry Butler originated the role,” she said during the live musical’s 2016 Television Critics Association summer press tour panel. “It’s a dream come true for me. So I don’t want to change anything about the role or, you know, how she develops. I just love, I love Penny, and it’s just such a great honor to her. So I don’t want any sort of special icing or parts. This is, like, really great, and I’m so happy.”
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