Hairspray Live! is such a joyous show it should perk up many a flagging spirit. It proves far superior to the previous week’s NBC Live offering of The Sound of Music, and you have to believe that it stems from a far more successful casting policy.
Heading out for a national casting call for Tracy works because she’s such an everywoman character, but even then, newcomer Maddie Baillio is thoroughly charming. Having Harvey Fierstein reprise his Edna is a masterstroke and then roping in Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Hudson indicates that the right strengths were being looked for.
Even bringing in Ariana Grande turns out to be a great decision, as she reveals herself to be a generous comic actor and happy in a supporting role like Penny. (I have to say I’ve never seen any of her acting before so maybe this isn’t a surprise.) And the whole production, directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski, is just suffused with the kind of joy that makes the best theatre sparkle.
Clever staging choices mean the integration of the live audience works wonder and brings its own energy into play, Jerry Mitchell’s choreography is well-judged and brilliantly delivered by the ensemble and the multi-camera cinematography is seamless with barely a hiccup across the nearly two hours of the show. And there’s just nothing like ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ to put a smile on your face, no matter how low you’re feeling. Join in!