Welcome to the '60s! A live blog of Hairspray Live!

I can’t decide if it’s extremely ironic or extremely appropriate that a musical about the importance of diversity, overcoming racism, body positivity, and the importance of great hair is airing right now.

'Cause, you know.

‘Cause, you know.

Hairspray, in case you are unfamiliar with the iconic John Waters film and Broadway musical and film based on the Broadway musical (John must be hella rich!), is about Tracy Turnblad, a heavyset Baltimore teen, who wins spot on a local dance show in 1960s Baltimore. As the civil rights movement begins around them, Tracy and her friends fight to de-segregate their dance show too.

Each Hairspray incarnation has been well received by critics–yes, even the one with John Travolta in drag–so let’s find out how Hairspray Live! will stand. Hopefully like the hair, it’ll be sky high.


7:59 pm

Hello and welcome to the liveblog of Hairspray Live! on NBC

8:01 pm

Apparently even homeless women like their hairspray. Although, wasn’t it a waste because she was spraying on her knit cap?

8:02 pm

We’re singing “Good Morning Baltimore” but the set looks like it’s evening. What’s up with that?

This first number is off to a rocky start. Although the director is being more creative with camera angles, despite the limitations of filming live, the choreography and Maddie Baillio, who plays Tracy, are lackluster.

Maddie skipped two lines, including a very important note at the end of the song. I’m sure it’s live jitters but girl, you gotta get it together.

8:05 pm

Oh, thank God, Derek Hough is here. That’s a sentence I never thought I would type. He’s no James Marsden, who was extremely charming in the 2007 film, but at least he’s bringing energy.

8:07 pm

Despite the limitations of the live set, Hairspray Live! is integrating set changes so seamlessly that I almost forget I’m not watching the 2007 version.

Ariana Grande is sweet and earnest as Penny Piggleton, which comes as no surprise considering that her stage persona as well. Still, I wish she could have taken on the villainous Amber role instead of Dove Cameron, who lacks charisma.

8:09 pm

Earlier in the pre-show special, Kristin Chenoweth mentioned how she wanted to play Velma when the Broadway show first opened and she felt made for the part. She wasn’t wrong.

8:11 pm

Dove Cameron’s Amber is more a silly, vapid, attention hog. I can’t decide if it’s funny or grating.

8:12 pm

I forgot to write about how Harvey Fierstein is reprising Edna but the man played the role, in drag, up to five times a week on a live stage. Needless to say, he’s doing absolutely  fine.

8:14 pm

We’re about to get into “Mama I’m A Big Girl Now”! I love this number and I was bummed it was cut from the film. The directors allegedly decided against the number because they didn’t want to film in split screen but that’s no issue for Hairspray Live!

Maybe now that she’s onstage with her co-stars, Maddie feels more confident in her singing. So far, no flubbed lines.

8:17 pm

I will say, the choreography is still underwhelming. They lifted the back drops to have a bigger dance cast (including one technical mistake where they accidentally dimmed the lights on Maddie a few seconds too soon), but it’s still…boring.

8:20 pm

Apparently Darren Criss, who was hosting the pre-show special, did not know he was supposed to stick around. “I guess I’m your host for the evening” doesn’t sound very enthusiastic.

8:25 pm

They really should let the audience laugh if they’re going to add a live audience. Maddie and Ariana had a cheap, but funny exchange–“I thought we’d never get here!” “I know, stupid six car pile up!”–and it felt strange that there wasn’t even a small chuckle.

8:27 pm

Maddie has gotten her groove back! She’s clearly more confident in “I Can Hear the Bells”, even letting the Guy Who Is Not Zac Efron touch her boob during the line “Won’t go all the way/But I’ll got pretty far”.

I love that they brought Harvey out for the “My mother will start to cry…” line. More Harvey onstage, please.

8:29 pm

Kristen Chenoweth is amazing in “Ms. Baltimore Crabs.” She was right; she really was born for this role. Belting, baton twirling, and bragging.

8:32 pm

“Would you swim in an integrated pool?”

And with that, this light-hearted musical is about to get into Very Serious Business and tackle racism.

Tracy is turned down from the show because she’s too fat and Lil Inez is too black. I hear this incident inspired Dr. King to take up the mantle of civil rights.

8:36 pm

I think Darren Criss wants to go home. He rushed through his trivia fact about Hairspray live (something about 52 light bulbs?) and doesn’t seem very enthusiastic to be there. If he is, he’s not alone. The technicians don’t seem to be either, with the rate of technical difficulties.

8:39 pm

Rosie O’Donnell makes a cameo as a teacher who gives Tracy detention.

Tracy gets sent to detention, where all the black kids are. They bond over being rejects in society–Tracy because her hair is too high, and the black kids because they live in a society that actively dehumanizes them. Totally the same!

8: 40 pm

“I wish every day was Negro day!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Only WE can say that word.”

8:42 pm

It’s “Ladies Choice” and the choreography is still boring.


8:44 pm

And now we know the source of cultural appropriation. It all started in a 1962 Baltimore gym when some black kid made the mistake of letting a white girl take credit for his dance moves.

Tracy just shimmies her hips in place and apparently that’s the 1962 version of twerking. I mean it. Everyone is falling over her and blown away by her moves and how “free-spirited” she is

8:52 pm

I think there was ANOTHER flub. Brenda appeared in the roll call for “Corny Collins” despite the fact that she’s supposed to be on maternity leave. You know, that’s the whole plot point that makes it possible for Tracy to be on the dance show?

8:54 pm

I know shows don’t stray too much from the script, but I think there was a missed comedic moment when Tracy declared that she wanted to be the first woman president.

8:55 pm

I will give Maddie all the credit for looking at Not Zac Efron like he really is Zac Efron.

Image result for zac efron hairspray winking

8:56 pm

Corny Collins, advocating for diverse representation on local TV! They should invite him to the Academy and maybe we can avoid another #OscarsSoWhite


Someone must have told Darren Criss to get with the program because as the show goes off air, he is playing the part of a peppy host.

9:01 pm

Maybe I’m too much of a heart bleeding hippie, but something bothers me about Darren Criss informing me that technicians are spraying the set streets with water to make them look shiny when Flint is still having their water crisis.

Anyway, let’s see how that number will disappoint. Does the choreographer of this show not know how to dance?

9:05 pm

Harvey is a goddamn national treasure. I really wish they let the audience laugh. He’s got so many funny zingers and I feel weird laughing out loud in front of TV all by myself.


Are the dancers nervous about slipping on the wet streets? Why are they moving so slow? DANCE! DANCE, GODDAMMIT!

9:09 pm

When Harvey came out preening as the newly made up Edna Turnblad, everyone in the cast stepped up their dance game. Coincidence? I think not. Solution: more Harvey onstage.

Also, Sean Hayes is Mr. Pinky. Again, the biggest talents have the smallest parts.


So Seaweed is only crushing on Penny because he thinks all her gum chewing makes her jaw muscles strong. Seaweed thinks in the long term.

9:19 pm

And now we have a dodgeball tournament between Amber and her cronies and Tracey and the black kids. It was their own personal Selma.

9:22 pm

Sorry, Ephraim but you also fall short of your movie counterpart.

I will say that the dancers for “Run and Tell That” are finally taking advantage of the space and doing more than a simple one two step. HURRAY!

9: 24 pm

Who is Lil Inez? She’s adorable, she’s got enthusiasm, and she can dance! Can she and Harvey host their own live special?

9:25 pm

What does it say that the sponsored commercials do a better job of handling the campy humor of the 60s than the live show does?

9:30 pm

Doesn’t Motormouth Maybelle have a bigger part in the musical? I swear, the scene after “Run and Tell That” can’t be our first introduction to the character.

Anyway, apparently Motormouth Maybell and the black dancers have been petitioning to desegregate The Corny Collins Show–even begging the governor!–but got nothing. But you get one white person to raise a stink…

9:33 pm

“The watermelon doesn’t roll far from the vine”

You have to admire Velma for making a fat joke and a racist joke in one.

9:35 pm

The kids are getting ready to spearhead the Civil Rights movement! The musical gets surprisingly prescient when Tracy and Link argue about helping the protest. “So you don’t think segregation is wrong?” she asks. “Sure. But why is it my problem?” he replies.

9:40 pm

I always thought it was weird that “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” was the closing number for Act I after we just had A Serious Discussion about racism.  We have Jennifer Hudson belting out how attractive she is intercut with a protest against segregation.

9:42 pm

Insert your Trump jokes during the protest scene.

9:49 pm

Oh God, why don’t they let the audience laugh? Harvey’s whole phone call with Mr. Pinky was hysterical. “Little girls make mistakes…If they didn’t, where would other little girls come from?”

9:54 pm

Martin and Harvey have great chemistry in “You’re Timeless to Me”. I like that they play Edna and Wilbur as a very happy, very affectionate married couple.

I swear I heard laughter in the background during one of the gags. Let the audience laugh!

10:02 pm

Tracy is in prison but never fear, it’s no “Orange Is the Black”. Her mom can come by and drop off food willy nilly despite the fact that Tracy is in solitaire.

10:05 pm

I think Tracy and Not Zac Efron tried to make out through the prison bars. I can’t be sure because the camera angle was awkward.

10:06 pm

Not Zac Efron is so progressive! He brought three black back up singers to serenade his girlfriend

10:08 pm

“Who would have thought I would fall for a girl with skin like winter snow?”

That line is a bit of stretch, considering how spray-tanned Ariana is.


Tracy breaks out of prison because the bars are poorly constructed. So…she could have left earlier this whole time?

10:10 pm

“Without Love” concludes and so the plot gets back on track because a bunch of horny teens want to bang.

10:18 pm

Billy on the Street is Billy behind the news desk! Another delightful cameo.

10: 19 pm

Jennifer Hudson slays “I Know Where I’ve Been”. I believe part of the emotion might be coming from the fact that we are living in a tumultuous political atmosphere.

Also: the production went all out to have a rain machine to add to the DRAMA of this scene.

10:29 pm

Derek Hough is no James Marsden but he still makes a pretty good Corny Collins. He’s very campy and fun.

10:31 pm

Love that Velma jumps in to sing the final high note. It’s totally in character.

10:32 pm

Was that prop can supposed to open? I don’t think it was. The techies on this show are slacking.

Also, Dove Cameron have finally won me over. Her rendition of “Cooties” is deliciously catty and it helps that the cast is actually dancing. Kristen Chenoweth must have given her tips.

10:34 pm

It’s time for You Can’t Stop the Beat!

Okay, they’re going to dance for this number, right? It’s all about dancing! Literally!

10:35 pm

Doesn’t Ariana Grande know that she’s supposed to come out in costume? Oh, wait. That is her costume.

10:37 pm

Okay, I was born with a severe lack of rhythm but I know I could dance better than this. People are barely picking up their feet and moving! As Gloria Estefan says, “Get on your feet!”

10:39 pm

I know it’s supposed to be ironic that Velma lands a VP job for a hair company geared towards women of color but it feels sort of in poor taste because you know she’s going to continue to be horribly racist and that’s going to trickle down.

I think I spent too much time at college; I can’t enjoy cheap jokes as easily anymore.

10:41 pm

Mrs. Piggleton is shocked to see her daughter dressed as a baby prostitute but since her daughter is Ariana Grande, she finally accepts that as a simple fact of life.


Harvey is here! Yay! And Edna looks fabulous in that red dress!

10:42 pm

Maybe Trump should watch this musical. “Yesterday is history and it’s never coming back/Tomorrow is a brand new day and it don’t know white from black” are very apt words (or at least, I hope they will be) for the next four years.

10:44 pm

And it’s over!

10:49 pm

I am wrong. Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande are going to sing “Come So Far” as a close out number.

Thanks for reading the liveblog! I’ll be finishing my concluding thoughts soon.

Sky High Beehive or Dented ‘Do?

Better than “Peter Pan”, better than “Sound of Music”, but still miles behind “The Wiz”, which in my opinion, was the best live musical that NBC or any other network has produced.

The directors were more ambitious and creative with the camera placement, which made the musical feel like a film instead of a stage show. Unfortunately, there were some basic, glaring technical difficulties that severely distracted from the quality of the show.

I’m finding it hard to muster any enthusiastic praise for the cast, with the exception of Harvey and Kristen, because they all seemed dull and charmless compared to their Broadway and film counterparts. The equally dull and charmless choreography didn’t do anything to boost the energy of the show.

I really want to know if the choreographer of this show is from those tiny towns like in Footloose where they ban dancing but even those kids knew how to move.

Hairspray was never supposed to be too shocking or daring so I’m not as disappointed as I was with the Rocky Horror adaptation, but it is supposed to be a fun and campy couple of hours. It feels like the younger cast members were using this show as another bullet point on their resume whereas the older cast members understood that it’s a show that needs an element of zaniness to keep the audience’s attention.


What did you think of Hairspray Live!?


Susan Velazquez

Susan is a recent college grad and writer who enjoys all things from the 1980s, snarking on dumb television, and reveling in celebrity gossip. Oh, and she has serious interests like reading historical fiction, getting involved in social issues, and consuming French fries.

You may also like...