“Hairspray Live!” aired on Wednesday Night, December 7, on NBC. Will this live TV event bring awards glory for its creators and all-star cast, who include Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Derek Hough and newcomer Maddie Baillio in the lead role as Tracy Turnblad? It will try to live up to an impressive awards legacy for the “Hairspray” brand.
Before this TV treatment it was a 1988 camp classic directed by John Waters and starring Ricki Lake, which earned six Independent Spirit Award nominations including Best Picture. Then it was a long-running Broadway show that won a whopping eight Tonys in 2003, including Best Musical. That musical was adapted for the big screen in 2007 and earned a Golden Globe nom for Best Musical/Comedy Picture and a SAG bid for Best Film Ensemble.
This new TV version has a strong awards pedigree of its own. It brings back Harvey Fierstein to the role of Edna Turnblad that won him the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Playing Edna’s husband Wilbur is two-time Emmy winning comedy legend Martin Short. Co-star Hudson is an Oscar and Grammy winner. Grande is a Grammy nominee and the reigning American Music Award winner for Artist of the Year. Hough has won two Emmys for choreographing “Dancing with the Stars.” And Kristin Chenoweth and Andrea Martin have both been decorated with Tonys and Emmys.
The talent behind the camera is also impressive. It’s directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski; Leon was nominated at the Directors Guild Awards for two other stage-to-screen adaptations, “A Raisin in the Sun” (2008) and “The Wiz: Live!” (2015), and he won a Tony for directing “Raisin” on Broadway in 2014. And Rudzinski just won a pair of Emmys in 2016 for directing and producing “Grease Live!”
So how will “Hairspray” compare to those other recent live TV extravaganzas? “The Wiz” aired this time last year, and in addition to Leon’s DGA bid it was also recognized by the Costume Designers Guild and the Art Directors Guild. It contended for five Critics’ Choice TV Awards too, but this year Critics’ Choice announced its nominees earlier, so that group missed its chance to see “Hairspray.” When this year’s Emmys came around “The Wiz” earned five Creative Arts Emmy bids, winning for its costumes.
“Grease Live!” did even better at the Emmys, winning five of its 10 nominations, including Best Special Class Program. It premiered in January 2016, so it may compete head-to-head against “Hairspray” on the upcoming guild awards circuit.
What did you think? Will it be an awards contender or an awards dud? Vote in our poll below.