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Hairspray Live! - NBC - The Shows Must Go On! REVIEW

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

The current rival of Hairspray in the West End is on pause due to Coronavirus… sigh! But that won’t stop us enjoying this high-energy, slightly cheesy musical which touches on a very serious topic.

Hairspray Live! is the American TV adaptation of the 1988 film which is live on The Show Must Go On Youtube channel for a short 24 hours. Originally aired on NBC in 2016 this plot follows the 2002 stage version rather than the 2007 film version.

The story is set in Baltimore in 1962 as teenager Tracy Turnbald is cast on her favourite TV show but with the ongoing segregation doesn’t sit well with her, she decides to take action.

There are still a fair few differences and I was sad to see ‘The New Girl in Town’ had been cut but the additional songs, lines and references added more context and layers to the show. I imagine these were taken out of the 2007 film and stage production to make it more accessible for younger generations.

This production has a star-studded cast, with only the main role of Tracey Turnblad and the show’s heartthrob Link Larkin not featuring well known names. Both Maddie Baillio (Tracy Turnblad) and Garrett Clayton (Link Larkin) stand up well amongst the strong line up but naturally can’t compete with the voices of Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson. Grande was fabulous as the ditzy best friend Penny Lou Pingleton and clearly wasn’t just cast for her name but acting talent too. Hudson smashed a soulful gospel number late in the show and took the glamorous role of Motormouth Maybelle.

The set is absolutely bonkers and I would love to know the budget for the scenery but alas Google has failed me. Full of colour and detail, the sets were larger than life and the costumes bang on the 60s trend, complete with bouffant hair and afros.

The transition left a little to be desired as jumpy scene changes and blackouts interrupted the flow of the story. Something I imagine is tricky to avoid with a TV production but new additions of a split screen worked well in the format of a theatre/film hybrid.

The choreography felt a little flat compared to the films and stage productions but the camera angles aided the scenes bringing more energy to the already enthusiastic cast.

I was really rather impressed with this version of Hairspray. I hadn’t expected such a strong cast, amazing set and engaging watch. If you are a Hairspray fan and can catch this version then I would recommend giving it a watch.

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