“We’re jumping in between interior spaces and exteriors on a scale that no other live musical has done before,” declares Alex Rudzinski, director of “Hairspray Live” airing December 7 on NBC. In our recent chat during a set visit (listen above), he adds, “The logistics of that for both the cast and the crew are probably the biggest challenge. Dealing with any inclement weather on the night would take it up another level, so having a B and C plan… for those things that hit you sideways.”
NBC has now produced four straight live musicals in December, all from the team of Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. The tradition started with “The Sound of Music” (2013), and then “Peter Pan” (2014), and “The Wiz Live” (2015). Kenny Leon (“A Raisin in the Sun”) is in charge of the staging and performances, while Rudzinksi helms the technical aspects of the show
The adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad (Maddie Baillio) has a dream to dance on a local show. Her mother Edna (Harvey Fierstein, who also wrote the teleplay) encourages her to help integrate the all-white program. Other cast members include Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, and Derek Hough. Marc Shaiman wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman.
One of the major reasons that Rudzinski wanted to be involved: “The comedy in this and the amount of music in it. There’s so much comedy in Harvey’s script that it hits it out of the park every time you see the cast with these great lines. And it’s such a social message for this current period here in America. It reflects so well with some of the issues playing out in the country.”
Rudzinski is a two-time Emmy Award winner, having prevailed for directing and producing “Grease Live” this past September. Similar to this new production, he was the technical director while Thomas Kail was in charge of staging and actors. Other TV projects in his directing career have included “Dancing with the Stars,” “The X Factor,” “British Academy Britannia Awards,” and “Maya and Marty.”
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