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.
Who else is watching?!? pic.twitter.com/BnNBJ15GJa— Iain Armitage (@IainLoveTheatre) December 7, 2016
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)