“Hairspray Live!” pollutes its own reputation


Photo Courtesy of NBC

“Hairspray Live!” has a banner cast but little else

Aerosol doesn’t only break down the ozone layer, it manages to break down racial barriers in television, broadway, movies, and other forms of media. The musical Hairspray, takes place in the 60’s and takes a look into racial stereotypes during that time. Originally a movie in the late 80’s, “Hairspray” has become an international success with remakes, national tours, books, worldwide productions, a broadway play, and most recently a live television event on NBC.

The plot follows Tracy Turnblad, an overweight aspiring dancer and singer who finally gets the opportunity to audition to be on her favorite show, “The Corny Collins Show” on TV network WYTZ in 1962, Baltimore, Maryland. The local teen dance show features Tracy’s peers such as Amber Von Tussle and her boyfriend, Link Larkin, the male lead dancer on the show. After being turned down at the audition, Tracy catches Collin’s attention and he chooses her to join the show. Tracy becomes a celebrity overnight, threatening Amber’s chances of winning the show’s annual “Miss Teenage Hairspray” pageant. Link also starts to grow fonder of Tracy, creating a rift in his and Amber’s relationship. Every year, The Corny Collins Show has a “Negro day” where African-American kids are allowed to be on the show but this year, Velma has cancelled “Negro day”. After hearing the news, Tracy is furious and organizes a march with all the “Negro Day” kids, along with the host of “Negro day”, Motormouth Maybell, for integration.

“Hairspray Live!” was a live television event on NBC, that captivated the audience with powerful singers, interactive screenplay, and a great cast. On the other hand, the movie was very out of balance and messy, sacrificing musical numbers and funny scenes due to very cramped screen time. These cutscenes took away some of the fun from those who have watched previous adaptations. That being said, “Hairspray Live!” is great for those who are new to the musical and are looking for familiar faces in the musical/television industry.

The cast for this NBC exclusive are definitely names you have heard before, but the real star was Maddie Baillio, who made her debut as Tracy Turnblad, the main character of the film. That being said Nickelodeon veteran Ariana Grande played Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s sheltered and quirky sidekick. Disney star Dove Cameron played Amber Von Tussle, the daughter of the former “Miss Teenage Hairspray” pageant winner, Velma Von Tussle.


Overall Rating: 2/5

The remake of this musical classic did not flow well and missed the mark in many places. Although, most of the actors and actresses did a good job, the way this movie was directed was not ideal and some key story plots were cut or rearranged. The character Prudy Pingleton, Penny Pingleton’s mother, was not portrayed as strictly and racially-prejudice as she was in earlier adaptations, taking away from the depiction of the racial prejudice that occurred during 1960’s. The commercial breaks done by “Corny Collins” was choppy and unnecessary. Ariana Grande’s performance as Penny Pingleton was less innocent and more foolish and unintelligent. Penny Pingleton in previous performances (which most of us love) was portrayed as overprotected and sheltered but this time she was shown as stupid and ignorant. Dove Cameron, who portrayed Amber Von Tussle, the “queen bee”, was annoying and pretentious. Her voice was high pitched and just plain irritating. Her performance looked more like the portrayal of a “mean girl” on a trashy 2016 Disney TV show. Overall, the vocals of the cast were amazing as well as Kristen Chenoweth’s performance as Velma Von Tussle. Some of the vocals were drained out by the background music and the sets were too busy, such as during “Good Morning Baltimore” when there were too many other things going on making it very difficult to focus on the main and most important part of the scene. Due to the execution of this TV remake, it was a major letdown from the last two movie adaptations of the musical.