Rehash: Hairspray Live!

I’m a big fan of Hairspray, the original John Waters movie, the stage show and the musical movie. I was excited to see it take on new life in a new medium: Live on TV. This was a good opportunity to take what is great from each version of the story and make it into a new version. In general, I like the choices that were made.

We have to start with the best choice which was to make Edna as she was always meant to be: played by a man while being very obvious that the actor is a man. My biggest beef with the 2007 movie was John Travolta’s Edna. Edna is meant to be manly and have a deep voice. It was so great to have Harvey Fierstein back as Edna. No one does it better.

The movie musical introduced a few new songs and took out some from the stage show. I was glad to see “Mama I’m a Big Girl Now” back but appreciated that they kept in “Ladies’s Choice.” It was a good call moving this to Corny so that “It Takes Two” could stay in and be sung by Link. Also glad to see “Cooties” back in full form. It really is the best moment for Amber Von Tussle. “New Girl in Town” is my favorite addition to the movie musical so of course I wish it had been included but there wasn’t enough time to include every song from every Hairspray so I can live with the choice especially since “Big Doll House” was the other main song excluded. Not a big fan. Though my vote for song to get rid of is always “Miss Baltimore Crabs” but I don’t ever see it happening.

Besides the terrible performance from John Travolta the second most disappointing change in the 2007 movie was excluding Tracy being arrested. This results in having to change the words to “Without Love” and I’ve never approved. It was nice to have it back to its original form.

I’m sorry to whoever the kid is who played Link but no one is a better Link Larkin than Zac Efron. His winks alone can make anyone swoon. It’s hard to pull off calling someone “little darlin” and this guy just wasn’t doing it for me.

Maddie Baillio was a good Tracy and it was a great nod to the earlier versions of the story and the fans to have Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur make cameos. I was hoping for some original cast members to make appearances much like they did with Grease: Live and I wasn’t disappointed.

We can talk all we want about the casting and song choices but really the production came down to how well they could pull it off. Besides a few hiccups in camera work, everything went pretty smoothly. The most startlingly part of the production was the outdoor scenes. Yes, when the show was put on it was dark outside but that meant it was dark when Tracy went to school and when she left school with her friends. These scenes really should have been done in a sound studio where the light could have been better controlled. It was distracting.

I was also surprised by how much racier it was the movie version. Ariana Grande was grinding, Wilbur felt up Amber and Link felt up Tracy. I just figured they would make it more PG and gear it toward a family event but what do I know?

Oh and I will not be commenting on Darren Criss and his behind the scenes looks because I didn’t watch them. For a three hour show on a Wednesday night, it was already a big commitment, I didn’t want to waste time hearing from fans or whatever they did.

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