I’m such a big fan of Hairspray and I really wanted love Hairspray Live! but I just couldn’t. We went into the broadcast with trepidations after our soundtrack preview, and some of our fears were confirmed quickly. While there were a couple of bright spots, it was a somewhat dim, hurried and limited performance. Here’s 5 things that stood out to me in Hairspray Live!, both the good and the bad.
I though that her acting was really good, her voice was amazing, but it didn’t fit the script that they kept calling her big. How does it work that you have a former Weight Watchers spokesperson, looking trim and slim in their belted jumpsuit next to Harvey Fierstein and we’re expected to believe anyone thinks Jennifer Hudson is big.
He gave hands down the best performance of Hairspray Live! because of his energy and commitment. Cheno was so over-the-top that it didn’t even work in a camp piece like Hairspray, the kids that played Tracy, Link and Amber seemed totally out of their element and Harvey Fierstein was barely intelligible at points. But, Martin Short delivered a solid, warm and humorous performance that was easily the best part of Hairspray Live!
First of all, Penny Pingelton is one of my dream parts and I always judge roles closer to my heart a little more sharply. She was terrible. I didn’t like her mumbly, baby doll talking or singing. I don’t care if she’s appeared on Broadway, she can’t act. Most of the time her listless swaying and odd character choices made it seem as if Penny had mental challenges.
I love the 60’s so I was expecting a ton of great costumes, but sadly was disappointed there too. Some of the costumes looked like they had been directly purchased off of the internet at homecoming style stores that claim to carry “vintage styles.” I was really sad that so many outfits in the finale looked blah. It’s such a great joyful moment and I would have preferred to see better things than Penny’s boring green go-go dress, Tracy’s sad blue and yellow dress and Jennifer Hudson continually spilling out of her top.
Who was that Reddi-Wip guy? Did you see him in the commercials? He could sing and dance and had more charisma than the kids playing Link and boring cream cheese Derek Hough put together. Matthew Morrison should have been Corny and they should have gotten that Reddi-Wip guy for Link.
I really hope that NBC steps it up for Bye Bye Birdie Live! next year!
There was a lot going on during Hairspray Live! this week, but here were some of the things that stood out the most, good and bad:
Blind Casting– This casting wasn’t just colorblind; it was totally blind. The casting of Ariana Grande as Penny made her mom (played by Andrea Martin) seem extra weird by being racist towards black people while having a latina daughter. Jennifer Hudson wasn’t believable singing “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” because she’s lost so much weight. In the lyrics of “You’re Timeless to Me,” it mentions Wilbur being balding, and Martin Short has a very full head of hair. The casting wouldn’t be a problem in some other pieces, but here, where physical appearance is such a big deal to the story, it’s confusing.
Rewriting– All of the above could have been corrected, because Harvey Fierstein did some rewriting of the original Broadway script, but instead chose to keep these jarring items. Bad job on the rewrite!
Acting-No major role felt connected to anything they were saying. It felt like they were reading it all off of teleprompters for how little if felt like it impacted them and their delivery.
“Lady’s Choice” by Derek Hough– This is another rewriting fail. Earlier in the show, a line from “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” is changed to avoid having a teenager talk about being attracted to older men. But then when it came time for “Lady’s Choice,” originally performed by Zach Effron as Link Larkin in the move, Derek Hough as Corny Collins instead performs it. I get wanting to give him the showcase number since he’s a bigger star, but now it’s a grown man singing to teenagers about dating him, which they tried to avoid earlier. Very confusing.
Martin Short– The highlight of the whole show was Martin Short. He made different and interesting acting choices for the character of Wilbur, and could never be accused of not being fully invested in his character. He never had to warm up, or felt over the top. He was spot on perfect.
So there were some of our thoughts on Hairspray Live! Here’s hoping next year’s Bye Bye Birdie Live! Is much better! Did we miss anything? Were there any moments that you thought were particular cringe inducing or wonderful? Let us know in the comments below.
(all images from nbc.com)