“It’s a spectacular cast. These shows are always kind of historic,” proclaims Martin Short about the musical event “Hairspray Live” airing December 7 on NBC. In our recent chat during a set visit (listen above), the actor and comedian adds, “I was talking to an actor last night who is a Broadway actor and he says, ‘I wouldn’t go near one of these things if my life depended on it. That idea scared him. But to me taking risks is always the most fun.”
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. Short plays Tracy’s father Wilbur, husband of Edna. Other cast members include Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, and Derek Hough. Marc Shaiman wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman.
It’s the fourth straight December for a live musical on NBC, all produced by 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”) and Alex Rudzinski (“Grease Live”) are directing this project.
Short discusses his long relationship working with Emmy, Grammy and Tony-winning composer Shaiman: “Marc was musical director for ‘Saturday Night Live’ when I was a cast member in 84. We did a Broadway show together, ‘Fame Becomes Me,’ which was my one-man show… with a cast. So we have a long, long, long, long history.”
Short is a Tony Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical (“Little Me,” 1999). He also has two Emmy Awards for Best Variety Writing (“SCTV Comedy Network,” 1983) and Best Variety Special (“AFI Life Achievement: Mel Brooks,” 2014). His long list of film credits includes “Three Amigos,” “Innerspace,” “Father of the Bride,” “Clifford,” “Frankenweenie,” and “Inherent Vice.”
Correction: The original version of this post misspells the surname of the lyricist: He is Scott Wittman, not Whitman.
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