The 10 Most Beat-Stopping Moments From Hairspray Live!

Photo: Trae Patton/NBC.
NBC piped another hit Broadway musical onto small screens across America tonight with Hairspray Live!

Unlike its first two outings — the equally underwhelming Sound of Music and Peter Pan (remember Allison Williams dangling from a wire?) Hairspray Live! proved that the network has found its theater legs. (The third time was the charm with last year's dynamite broadcast of The Wiz.)

Harvey Fierstein's 2002 Broadway musical Hairspray (adapted from John Waters' 1988 film, and later made into the 2007 Zac Efron vehicle) feels even timelier in 2016 than producers may have expected. Its themes of healing racial divisions and of underdogs banding together couldn't be more relevant after this roller coaster of a year. And director Kenny Leon (a Tony-winning Broadway vet) made those resonances clear throughout, shedding light and casting shadows to show how much and how little has changed since the '60s.

Newcomer Maddie Baillio starred as Tracy Turnblad, a chubby, sunny teenager in Baltimore who just wants to dance on TV, and bring everyone of all walks on stage with her. Spoiler alert: She succeeds, and the results are pretty damn magical. To a fan-favorite score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Tracy finds a way to bring her whole community together when their divides seem insurmountable. We could all use a dose of her moxie.

Here were the 10 biggest highlights from the live show.

Ariana Grande's ponytail cloned itself into pigtails, and she became an endearing nerd for the ages.
The "Break Free" singer played Tracy Turnblad's dweeby sidekick Penny Pingleton with wide eyes and breathy wonder. If she seemed tentative at times, it worked for her spazy character, whose head is always in the clouds. Grande was a pint-size vision in plaid, low-key working it in every scene — until she was carried into the finale wearing a shimmery emerald-green minidress and knee-high white patent-leather stiletto boots (!).
Advertisement
The internet was 'shipping Ariana and Ephraim Sykes...hard.
Sykes, a regular on Broadway (and original Hamilton ensemble member) made a big impression as Seaweed Stubbs — especially on Grande's Penny. His "Run and Tell That" had Penny losing consciousness and viewers at home googling his name. (We'd do well to remember it.)

Shahadi Wright Joseph is 11 years old, and her performance as Seaweed's sister had "Little Inez" trending on Twitter.
"I'm young, Black, and talented," served as Little Inez's introduction. AMEN!
Piping in the live audience totally saved the show.
Fans and eager spectators seated around the studio were notably absent for the first few numbers, which ended in awkward silence. But once The Corny Collins Show started rolling (the dance program all the kids want to be on), rowdy cheers carried the show's momentum.

Kristin Chenoweth stole every scene in the first hour.
As the evil, racist Velma Von Tussle, whom she played like a Stepford wife after five Red Bulls, Chenoweth served up some insane vocals, and her crack comedic timing was spot-on — at least until Velma's bigotry stopped the character from being funny.
Photo: Trae Patton/NBC.
We should all be so lucky to have someone bark and growl at us like Martin Short did to Harvey Fierstein.
As the Turnblad parentals, Short and Fierstein (gravely-voiced and in progressively better drag) were pure #relationship goals. When Edna (Fierstein) complained that she didn't feel beautiful enough to be on TV, Short let his affection be known in a fit of beastly grunts we should all be so lucky to hear from bea.

Rosie O'Donnell was 100% trolling Donald Trump as the pervy, tyrannical gym teacher.
First she was barking out detentions and lording over the room of mostly Black students, then she was asking if any of the boys needed a shower after dodgeball. Corralling minorities and making lecherous advances...sound like anyone you know? Her wig wasn't orange, but it might as well have been.
Jennifer Hudson slayed in a blonde bouffant.
Hudson sang her face off as Motormouth Maybelle in what were by far the night's most show-stopping numbers, including "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful" (hence, the divine wig), and "I Know Where I've Been," an anthem for racial justice that blew the roof off.
Darren Criss pulled a Ryan Seacrest at the Olympics, and it was...awkward.
For what seemed like consolation for not being cast in the show, Criss had the supremely thankless role of hosting the backstage commercial proceedings, often squelching any excitement following big numbers.

You can't stop the beat — it's really just not possible, so don't even try it.
By the musical's rollicking, infectious finale, all the divas were in sequins, limbs were flailing, wigs were wagging, and the beat — well, you couldn't stop it if you tried.
Advertisement