Monday, December 12, 2016
Hairspray Live! (2016)
IMDb plot summary: A teenage girl living in Baltimore in the early 1960s dreams of appearing on a popular TV dance show.
Directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski. Starring Maddie Baillio, Harvey Fierstein, Garrett Clayton, and Jennifer Hudson.
Of all the shows NBC has chosen to do in their live musicals series, this is the first one that is a show I actually like. Hairspray is an incredibly musical that manages to somehow be both political and infectiously cheerful (not a very typical combination). It's an amazing show with great songs and never fails to make me happier after having seen it. The star-studded 2007 film version is surprisingly excellent, with the exception of John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, so the live performance had some big shoes to fill going up against a movie in my top 20.
On the whole, it was pretty good. It's a big show with a lot of characters, and most of those characters were played well. The exceptions are Garrett Clayton (whose Link is almost unbearably bland), Ariana Grande (whose Penny seems so stupid I genuinely feel uncomfortable by Seaweed's attention to her, like she's being taken advantage of), and Ephraim Sykes (who ruined "Run and Tell That" by lagging consistently behind the very clear beat). But the great thing about Hairspray is that those side characters don't define the play. Sure, a great Link/Penny/Seaweed can add a lot to the show, but bad ones just mean more attention is paid to Tracy and Edna -- and both Maddie Baillio and Harvey Fierstein (of course) hit it out of the park here. Throw in a really solid Amber, Velma, Wilbur, Corny Collins, and Motormouth Maybelle (though one who clearly cannot call herself "big" in any way, shape or form), and you've got yourself a show.
The sets looked good, too, aside from the fact that Baltimore appears to be in the midst of a weeks-long solar eclipse. Watching Tracy sing "Good Morning Baltimore" when clearly the sun hasn't risen yet is weird, as is the fact that the kids leave school to go to Motormouth Maybelle's and get there in apparently the middle of the night. This small detail is weird and distracting and wreaks havoc with the play's timeline.
Overall, though, a much stronger effort than the one NBC live show I have seen (Peter Pan), and I'm hoping this upward trend continues.
How it entered my Flickchart:
Hairspray Live! > The Whistleblower
Hairspray Live! > Eat Pray Love
Hairspray Live! < Kramer vs. Kramer
Hairspray Live! < Seven Samurai
Hairspray Live! > The Secret Garden (1987)
Hairspray Live! > Cold Comfort Farm
Hairspray Live! < Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Hairspray Live! > The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Hairspray Live! > Center Stage
Hairspray Live! > Network
Final spot: #499 out of 2545.