[LISTEN] Neil Meron (‘Hairspray Live’ producer): The ‘iconic’ musical features a ‘completely fearless’ cast and crew

“We’re very lucky that ‘Hairspray’ is such an iconic piece of material,” says producer Neil Meron about the musical event “Hairspray Live” airing December 7 on NBC. In our recent chat during a set visit (listen above), he discusses the cast and crew: “We went to people that we felt could handle the pressure of doing live TV, so we have a mix of people who have done Broadway or that are recording artists who are now taking their chances in a new medium. We have some people who are completely fearless about it.”

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This musical is the fourth consecutive on NBC that have been produced by Meron and Craig Zadan. The December streak started with “The Sound of Music” (2013), and then “Peter Pan” (2014), and “The Wiz Live” (2015). Kenny Leon (“A Raisin in the Sun”) also directed that Emmy-nominated project last year and returns this month in charge of the staging portion along with Alex Rudzinski (“Grease Live”) responsible for the technical directing.

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, Martin Short, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, and Derek Hough. Marc Shaiman wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman.

Related: Listen to our interview with ‘Hairspray Live’ director Kenny Leon

With several production numbers, Meron chats about one of his favorites: “One of the best numbers in ‘Hairspray’ is ‘Welcome to the 60’s.’ It’s the real Cinderella moment for Tracy and Edna where they transform and leave their dowdy lives behind and get glamorized. It’s a huge number out in the street, and I think it’s going to be our first number that’s bold with lots of dancers and big camera angels with a lot of production values.”

Along with Zadan, Meron is a 13-time Emmy-nominated producer. The list includes “Gypsy” (1994), “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story” (1995), “Cinderella” (1998), “Annie” (2000), “The Beach Boys: An American Family” (2000), “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” (2001), “The Reagans” (2004), “A Raisin in the Sun” (2008), “The Sound of Music” (2013), “Bonnie and Clyde” (2014), and three times for the Oscars (2013, 2014, 2015).

Correction: The original version of this post misspells the surname of the lyricist: He is Scott Wittman, not Whitman.

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