This latest offering in The Shows Must Go On series covers issues that have become part of headline news in recent days.
It is such a shame that by watching Hairspray Live! based on the musical and set in 1960’s Baltimore is still so relevant in the themes it covers such as body shaming and racism – particularly given to recent events that have happened in America.
Beneath the fun of Tracy achieving her dreams of becoming a star on the Corny Collins Show, Hairspray also reveals how fame can help bring about important changes as she helps to make racial integration a reality on television.
Adapted for this 2016 television special by Harvey Fierstein (who also stars as Edna), this is a very slick and enjoyable version of the upbeat and entertaining musical, featuring an all star cast who do well to make their own mark on memorable characters. Brimming with laughs and heart, Fierstein’s adaptation never forgets to ensure the big themes of the musical are effectively covered.
Meanwhile sleekly directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski, the transition between scenes are brilliantly smooth almost making it feel like a film. In particular, sequences such as ‘Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now’ and ‘Welcome to the Sixties’ have been brilliantly filmed. Elsewhere, the set and costume designs really pop with colour and really help to capture the spirit of the musical, adding to the confident vibe of the whole production, helped further by Jerry Mitchell’s lively and playful choreography.
But it is also filled with bold and dynamic performances from a stellar cast who brim with energy and enthusiasm that makes it extra entertaining to watch. Maddie Baillio offers a really confident but sincere performance that works well in highlighting the character’s determination to make some changes to the Corny Collins Show and beyond. Vocally, she is at her best during numbers such as ‘Welcome to the Sixties’ that allows her to let her personality to really shine.
Elsewhere, Ariana Grande also offers a lovely and endearing performance as Penny, showing the blossoming of her personality with ease. Jennifer Hudson delivers a delightfully sassy and charismatic performance but filled with heart such as when she performs ‘I Know Where I have Been’, while Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth make a great pair as the spoilt and selfish Amber and Velma.
It is a musical always guaranteed to put a smile on your face but also manages to cover some big topics with great punch. Hairspray Live! is a wonderful adaptation of this big-hearted musical.
By Emma Clarendon
Hairspray Live! is available to watch through The Shows Must Go On until Sunday.