‘Hairspray’ Live Review: An Ultra Perfect Production — Even Without Zac Efron

Yes, we all missed him. But like the song goes, you can't stop the beat, especially not when it comes to 'Hairspray'. The musical has delighted folks for years and on Dec. 7, NBC tried it's hand at recapturing the magic for it's annual live musical. But did Ariana Grande & the cast live up to the high expectations?

Full disclosure: I may have had higher expectations than most watching this musical. I saw Harvey on Broadway in the original production, I live for John Waters’ movie that started it all, and to this day, I can only watch certain scenes from the musical film version. (Sorry, John Travolta!) Having said all that, this production … was exceptional!!!

Let’s start from the top: Miss Maddie Baillio, the unknown girl who won the role of a lifetime alongside the legendary Harvey Fierstein was simply fantastic as Traci. Lovable, sweet, and all with a powerhouse voice? Beautiful! When she stepped out during ‘Good Morning, Baltimore’, I was instantly in love. When and if they take this production on the road, they better keep this chick in the cast. And how perfectly did she fit in with Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur?

Obviously, Harvey was going to be perfect; he originated the role, which won him a Tony. But Harvey and Martin Short together? Perfection! I wanted to be Turnblad after ‘Timeless to Me‘ and ‘Welcome To The 60’s’. They were just so precious together.  Speaking of duos that defied expectations, who didn’t love the chemistry between Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth?! The Von Tussles haven’t looked this good since the original show in 2003! Dove gave Amber spunk and sass while Kristin, well, did you really expect her not to slay ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’? So much punch in the voice of someone so tiny! Love her!

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And then there was Ephraim Sykes — CAN THAT BOY MOVE OR WHAT?! Did everyone else see him do a split mid-air? Insane! He gave Derek Hough a run for his money, though no one can deny Derek brought the perfect amount of pizzazz to Corny Collins. If ever there was a role written for an artist, this was it! And lest us not forget the incomparable Jennifer Hudson. ‘Big Blonde & Beautiful’ never sounded so good! She gave such a powerhouse performance, it took me a solid 5 mins to get rid of the goosebumps! 

‘Hairspray’ Vs. ‘Hairspray Live!’: Side-By-Side Comparisons Of Each Character

So, where did the show lack? For me, sadly, it was Ariana Grande and Garrett Clayton. While the latter was certainly a charmer, I just didn’t feel the chemistry between his Link and Maddie’s Traci. Where was the passion in ‘Without Love’?! It’s like he didn’t even watch Zac Efron‘s version from the movie! And Ari, well, all I’ll say is that she doesn’t play ‘dumb’ very well.  It felt like she understood that she was meant to be mousy, but never quite got the hang of it. And she sang too much like Ariana Grande and not like Penny Pingleton. Also, and perhaps most important, she needed to practice blowing bubble gum bubbles more! That’s Penny signature move and it just felt abandoned. If Amanda Bynes could master it, so could you!

But overall, hands down, this is the best musical NBC has put on since they started this tradition with Sound of Music. Congrats, you’ve found what works! Now give us more!

HollywoodLifers, did you love the production? Or did you think they did better shows in years’ past?

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