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You can't stop the beat of live TV musicals, either online or in my living room

Tonight at 7 p.m., “Hairspray” joins the cannon of musicals getting the live-on-network television treatment. Following the success of “Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan,” “The Wiz” and “Grease,” NBC has assembled a cast of musical theater bona fides, pop stars and one virtual unknown who will not only sing hits from the Tony-winning musical, but inspire significant cyber chatter. Nielson ratings deemed last December’s “The Wiz” the most social live show ever, with the exception of broadcast sports or awards telecasts.

The “Hairspray” phone fun started early this morning, with the everyone from “Little Big Shots” kid wonder theater critic Iain Armitage to cast members from “Cats” posting photos of themselves sporting a digital teased-out Tracy Turnblad bouffant. There's even a custom emoticon hashtag.




For those unfamiliar with the John Waters’ film—and let’s be honest, there are probably plenty of people who haven’t seen the 1988 cult classic but can hum “You Can’t Stop the Beat”—the musical’s storyline follows teenage Tracy from her walk to school one Maryland morning in 1962 (“Good Morning, Baltimore”), to her grand finale star turn or the Corny Collins Show (the “Buddy Deane Show,” IRL.)

In between, Tracy becomes an unlikely Civil Rights hero, and blows through about three galloons of Aqua Net.

Maddie Baillio, a Manhattan Marymount College student who won the part in a future-star search audition, nabbed the lead role. She’ll be backed by a cast chosen to both satisfy musical theater fans and as teens who will tune in at the mere mention of Ariana Grande. The “Dangerous Woman” singer will capitalize on her naughty school-girl aesthetic by playing Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s alliterative best friend frequent detention partner. Two-time Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth, meanwhile, should be more of a draw for people who frequent actual theaters. Also in the mix: Harvey Fierstein, reprising his Tony-winning performance as Tracy’s mom, and Jennifer Hudson, belting a bit as Motormouth Mabel.

How well all these folks perform will be judged with real-time Twitter zingers from a nation of armchair theater critics, including me.

Actually, that’s not quite true. I don’t have an arm chair, or even a couch. I just relocated from Washington, D.C. to Minneapolis last month, and the movers broke my futon. But being a Baltimore native who loves anything showtune related, I’ll be watching even if I have to sit on the floor, simultaneously staring at my television and Twitter feed. So break a leg, Maddie Baillio and Co., and break a fingernail, America. And follow along. 

(Trae Patton/NBC via AP) 

89.3 the Current turning 12 with Bonar, Messersmith, Lemon Twigs, Joseph

Haley Bonar glammed it up with Gramma's Boyfriend at last year's Current birthday parties and returns Jan. 28 to tout her new solo album, "Impossible Dream." / Bre McGee, Star Tribune file

Haley Bonar glammed it up with Gramma's Boyfriend at last year's Current birthday parties and returns Jan. 28 to tout her new solo album, "Impossible Dream." / Bre McGee, Star Tribune file

Working to maintain its reputation as a go-to place to discover new music, 89.3 the Current will celebrate its 12th anniversary Jan. 27-28 at First Avenue with a lineup heavy on Twin Cities newcomers and buzz bands from afar.

Two local mainstays of the public-radio rock station, Jeremy Messersmith and Haley Bonar, will top out the two-night birthday bash alongside rising out-of-towners Joseph, the Lemon Twigs, Strand of Oaks and Sam Roberts. For local newcomers, the Current will welcome 12-man Afrobeat/funk band Black Market Brass, folky Kenyan transplant Jay Smart, grungy young rocker Monica LaPlante and one more act to be announced later.

Tickets for each night cost $20 and go on sale to Minnesota Public Radio members starting Thursday at noon and the general public beginning Friday at noon via The shows often sell out. Here’s a rundown of each night's lineup:


Jeremy Messersmith / Joseph / Strand of Oaks / Black Market Brass / Jay Smart


Haley Bonar / The Lemon Twigs / TBD / Sam Roberts / Monica LaPlante

Part of last year’s all-local 11th birthday lineup with her side band Gramma’s Boyfriend, Bonar returns to the party amid a busy tour schedule supporting her acclaimed sixth solo album, “Impossible Dream.” Messersmith and his band will be previewing songs off a new record due out next spring or summer on Glassnote Records.

As for the non-locals, the three harmonious Portland-area sisters in Joseph packed the Cedar Cultural Center and have been all over the Current with the single “White Flag.” The Lemon Twigs are a band of two young brothers from Long Island, N.Y., whose new debut for 4AD Records has generated a hipster buzz with its glammy, T. Rex flashblack flavor. Philadelphia rocker Timothy Showalter’s band Strand of Oaks played a well-received Turf Club gig last year behind their 2014 record “HEAL” and have a new LP coming Feb. 17. Canadian popster Sam Roberts just issued his sixth disc, “TerraForm.”

Here's a little sampler of the acts coming to town for the parties:

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