The Best and the Worst of ‘Hairspray Live!’

By Logan Garvey, Editor-in-Chief

The Best

Standout Performances

From Dove Cameron’s accurate representation of snooty, mean girl Amber to Kristin Chenoweth slaying as Velma Von Tussle, Hairspray Live! was filled with many talented celebs.
Derek Hough impressed the audience as usual with his remarkable dance moves and shockingly smooth singing voice. And of course we cannot forget Jennifer Hudson, who stunned everyone with her song, “Big, Blonde and Beautiful.” Hudson provided the musical with a powerhouse moment during “I Know Where I’ve Been.” I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m ready to see Hudson in another movie musical.


Costume designer Mary. E. Vogt brought a lively feel through the costumes that brought the whole plot of Hairspray together. The bright colors and vibrant trends in the costumes helped to amp up the amount of hype and energy need to put on this kind of musical.

“You Can’t Stop the Beat”

Although it is known to be one of Broadway’s longest closing numbers, no one could tell it was that long with constant action and positive energy rushing through the cast. This was true for Hairspray Live! from the start when Tracy took the lead to desegregate The Corny Collins Show through upbeat dance moves, especially when the whole group came together for a victory dance. Let’s not forget when Edna slayed the game in her ruby floor-length dress, and to be quite honest, the infectious tune stays true to it’s lyrics- You really can’t stop the beat.

Photo Courtesy NBC
The three Tracy Turnblads all united during “Welcome to the 60s” with Ricki Lake from the 1988 movie, Marissa Jaret Winokur who played the role in the 2002 Broadway musical and Maddie Baillio who played the role in the NBC live production.

The Worst

The Unreliable Sound

Opening night can be a tough time for live shows in terms of technical issues, but there is even more pressure when the opening night is also the closing night. The first time an issue with the mics occurred was during Maddie Baillio’s section of the opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore.” It could have been that she just slipped up on the lyrics, but seeing as there were multiple other times throughout the show where the mics were cut out, this does not seem to be the case.

Constant Changes in Location

Musicals are known to be performed on a stage, not in multiple different locations. This was an exception for Hairspray Live! as it was filmed on a lot in Universal Studios with stages. As far as directing and visuals go, this was an added plus to the show, but it was a fail in the end because it lacked the feedback from the audience throughout the performance. Hairspray is known for its countless upbeat scenes, and for there to not be an audience responding to them, the show suffered the necessary reactions that improve the show throughout. It almost seemed like a mic issue at times due to the lack of laughter from the audience.

Photo Courtesy NBC
Despite the great backgrounds when on the set, Universal Studio’s lot didn’t cut it in terms of audience feedback.

Darren Criss

Though it might have seemed like a positive addition at the time, Darren Criss’ commentary was unnecessary during the transitions between scenes and commercial breaks. His added input distracted from what was going on in the musical… it would have been nice to see him cast in the musical instead of adding commentary throughout the show.