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You Can’t Stop the Beat: Hairspray Live! Review

On Wednesday, December 7, NBC aired Hairspray Live! The performance had a lot to live up to ever since Fox premiered the well-reviewed Grease Live back in January. I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not the production would be good since past live TV musicals have been hit or miss for me, but I can honestly say that Hairspray Live! was amazing. The music, cast, acting, and of course dancing exceeded my expectations and made me love the musical even more.

Hairspray centers around a plump teenager named Tracy Turnblad, played by Maddie Baillio, and it is set in 1960s Baltimore, Maryland. Tracy exudes confidence and when the opportunity presents itself, she auditions for the city’s televised dance show, The Corny Collins Show. She becomes a regular on the show, and she uses her newfound stardom to bring awareness to issues such as body image and segregation with the help of her friends.

The show’s all-star cast included Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Dove Cameron as Amber Von Tussle, Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, and Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle. Harvey Fierstein was also there to reprise his role as Edna Turnblad.

One of the best characters in the show, however, was played by newcomer Maddie Baillio, who admitted that Hairspray was her first professional production and audition. Maddie was able to take the famous character of Tracy Turnblad and make her completely original while still being true to the show.

Another actor who I thought was phenomenal was Ephraim Sykes, who played Tracy’s friend Seaweed. Ephraim is extremely talented and is a former ensemble member from Hamilton: The Musical. The feisty 11-year-old Broadway veteran Shahadi Wright Joseph, who played Little Inez, also blew me away with her singing and dance moves.

Singing highlights from the show include, “Good Morning Baltimore,” “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now,” “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful,” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Any moment with Jennifer Hudson, singing or not, was spectacular. The dance moves were also spot on thanks to the choreographer, Jerry Mitchell. As for the set, it was bright and visually stunning throughout the whole show. All the costumes were beautifully designed and stayed true to the 1960s time period. I also loved the behind the scene coverage throughout the commercial breaks, which were hosted by Glee star Darren Criss.

Overall, Hairspray Live! was fantastic, hilarious, remained true to the original show, and had great messages weaved throughout it. The musical left me speechless, and I hope that future televised musical productions can reach the bar it set. If you haven’t watched it yet, you can check it out here.

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