Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)

A joyous production of Hairspray Live gives you hope that the show will go on with The Show Must Go On

“You can wonder i you wanna but I never ask why”

I assumed that since The Show Must Go On went with The Sound of Music Live last week that they would be working their way through the series of live TV musicals that NBC had aired in the US. In going with Hairspray Live this weekend though, it seems that we’ve skipped Peter Pan and The Wiz (maybe due to rights issues?), though it’s not necessarily the worst thing as Hairspray is such a joyous show it should perk up many a flagging spirit.

It proves far superior to 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!

Hairspray Live is free to view this weekend but do consider donating if you can:

Donate to NHS Charities COVID19 Appeal:…

Image credit: Brian Bowen Smith/NBC | 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

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