TV Movie: “Hairspray Live!”

It comes but once a year, at least on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and with it tons of fun and unintentionally hilarious moments, which are even better when shared on Twitter! The live holiday musical is back once more and hopefully it’ll be better than the last one I saw. “Peter Pan Live!” shouldn’t have been as awful and hilarious as it was, but it was. Having sat out (by complete accident) the previous year’s, I’m ready once more! I’ve never seen the film version of this nor a production, so it’ll definitely be eye opening. I’m sure I’ll love it and hate it, but hopefully it’s more on the positive side.

This year, however, will be considerably different. I’ve never written about one of these TV movies, so I’m just going to go with wing it! While I’ve written this little bit and the previous paragraph before the musical airs, I’ll be filling in the rest as the three hour program goes along. Well, I’ll certainly do my best. My Twitter thumbs will be in the ready position, and will no doubt fire away at anything that deserves to have some sort of snarky comment made. There will no doubt be a lot of that. Because of this, I can’t promise what the final piece will look like.

So, as it’s now nearing show time, I guess I better get myself ready. This should be one interesting night. I wonder if I should pour myself some wine. Anything like this deserves wine or some sort of alcoholic drink to help get me through it. Just imagine how much more fun “Peter Pan Live!” or “The Sound of Music Live!” would’ve been if there had been wine.

Here we go! My thoughts as the program goes along!

Nice opening song. And look at all those colors! Very fitting with this musical’s time period.

And with two songs having come and gone, I must say, I’m enjoying this presentation a lot. I should also say, the way the way this is set up, all the sets and the way we (the audience) goes from each one, especially, thus far, during “The Nicest Kids in Town”, was quite something! Seems so much bigger and a bit more complex than the two I’ve seen. Now I really wish I’d watched “The Wiz Live!”.

LOVING “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now”! Again, this staging! It’s amazing! Plus, which is unique just for this live performance, the way we cut back and forth with the various cameras. The control room must’ve been in tip top form! Congrats to them!

Wow. “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs” was quite brutal. I guess it’s not surprising that it would be, given that this story takes place in the ‘60s, and that the lead isn’t a skinnier young woman than was the norm of the time. Mind you, I can’t deny that the song wasn’t amazing.

My god! I think I could seriously go on and on about the musical numbers. They’re just blowing my mind! Possibly a combination of the lyrics themselves and the way everything’s choreographed and staged. Brilliant! A huge step up! Granted, this one’s a helluva lot more fun. So, with that in mind, unless a song really moves me, or gets a much different reaction from me, I’m not going to comment on songs anymore. Just read the above bits, you’ll get the picture, or you’ve already seen it.

Oh dear. Now the tiredness is starting to set in. A big yawn was just had, and it’s only 9:57pm. Oy. Mind you, the behind the scenes and social media Facebook Live bullshit isn’t helping. It’s irritating. I’m seriously over the constant need to spend several minutes (at least five or so, that’s what it feels like), as it’s just making this thing feel even longer than it needs to be. Perhaps that’s why it’s three hours. I don’t recall the others doing this or feeling overly long. Just painful to sit through and thus overly long, but that’s clearly a bit different.

Wow! That was some song from Jennifer Hudson. I’d heard she knocked her song’s right out of the park, but I had no idea! Oh wow. She’s still got it. Definitely making me want to watch “Dreamgirls” now, which really showcased both her acting skills and vocals. Well, to me as I didn’t watch her on “American Idol”.

“You Can’t Stop the Beat”! WOW!! A big number and I’m loving it!! Granted, the downside, it’s quite difficult to understand what they’re saying, but I’m just going with it, so I think it’s okay.

Okay! Those are my thoughts. I’m amazed. They’re nowhere near as snarky as I was expecting. Guess that’s a good thing.

But before we go, here are a few more structured thoughts I had about this broadcast.

The performances were all pretty decent. I didn’t really think any of them were bad or forced or anything I typically associate with this musical series. However, I can’t say they really stood out. Each character, while well defined, achieved the amount they needed to. Nothing truly taxing when you think about it. Sure some of the character’s stole the show, like Jennifer Hudson’s character, Kristin Chenoweth’s, and Ariana Grande, but everything could’ve really been a big disaster. I even was able to like Harvey Fierstein in this, which I was actually dreading.

And, like with others, I’m sure, there was one character I hated so much. Dove Cameron’s character was just awful. At the same time, she played her quite wonderfully, and I seriously wonder if that voice is natural or just something she did for this character. It and the look she had was perfect! One note I had, too, was that “This Amber’s a bitch. Vile creature.” She sure was, and when she was on screen the program certainly benefited from it.

As I’ve never seen this, I was surprised by some of the issues raised and tackled. Issues dealing with race, being different, bullying, etc. I’m sure there were others, but I may have missed them. They weren’t trying to be anything than what they were, but at the same time, which is a credit to whatever Fierstein did to the script, they weren’t forced down your throat. You could decide for yourself and dwell on them. One thing I did note, which is sad, is how much this musical can still resonate. These issues shouldn’t be as relevant as they are. We’ve clearly not learned that much, or perhaps done enough, in the past 56 years, give or take.

There were also a few cliché storylines and revelations to various characters, but it’s easy to look past, even if I do still groan out loud and roll my eyes. It’s what makes watching these programs so fascinating. Seeing what was done before and since, and how it was pulled off. Some are just better constructed. This one was pretty good. Enjoyable too.

The live musical broadcast was ushered in three years ago, by NBC and while it’s more fun to hate watch, if you go in with the right mind set, you can actually come away having enjoyed the three hours you spent watching. That’s what happened here, and I have a little more faith in this series, which recently saw other networks tackle classic musicals. They say anything can happen live, and while that was mostly true here, due to the extra fluff brought in, which really was annoying, nothing really stood out as a negative. Now, I’m probably going to be in the minority there, but I’m a newbie. I have nothing to compare it to. In so many ways, I’m lucky. I can’t be let down, nor can I nitpick over the bland feeling (or something similar) that some may have. Sure the vocals and the energy was there, but that doesn’t mean this broadcast wasn’t missing something else. Whatever it was, let me know! It was a fun three hours and I hope that next year’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie”, which I’m 10 times more excited about than this one, turns out to be just as stellar!

This musical event stars Maddie Baillio, Harvey Fierstein (“Family Guy”, “The Good Wife”), Kristin Chenoweth (“BoJack Horseman”, “Hard Sell”), Martin Short (“Modern Family”, “Maya & Marty”), Ariana Grande (“Zoolander 2”, “Scream Queens”), Derek Hough (“Nashville”, “Jane the Virgin”), Jennifer Hudson (upcoming “Sing”, “Inside Amy Schumer”), Dove Cameron (“Liv and Maddie”, “Descendants: Wicked World”), Garrett Clayton (“King Cobra”, “Elephant Kingdom”), Ephraim Sykes (“Crisis in Six Scenes”, “Luke Cage”), Shahadi Wright Joseph, Paul Vogt (“Mother’s Day”, “Raising Hope”), Billy Eichner (“Bob’s Burgers”, “Difficult People”), Sean Hayes (“Maya & Marty”, “The Millers”), Andrea Martin (“Difficult People”, “Tom & Jerry: Back to Oz”), and Rosie O’Donnell (upcoming “When We Rise”, “Mom”).

The musical was directed by Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”, “In My Dreams”) and Alex Rudzinski (“Maya & Marty”, “Grease Live!”) and written by Fierstein (“The Wiz Live!”, “Common Ground”). It is based on the musical of the same name by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.

The live musical premiered on Dec. 7, 2016 on NBC.


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