Hairspray Live

Discussion in 'Television' started by actor61, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. actor61

    actor61 Lord

    NBC did it again- another lousy "live" version of a Broadway show, which they have perpetrated on us every December, stating with their infamous production of "The Sound of Music". Last night's production of "Hairspray" was probably the best they've done in the series, although the bar is set pretty low, but with all the extraneous shots of actors golf carting to the next set for the next number, Darren Criss's inane commentary, and remarks from squealing fans all over the country, the actual show didn't have a prayer. Jennifer Hudson did her usual overblown tricks on every number she had to sing, Harvey Fierstein's shtick is getting very tiresome, and all the star cameos, such as Sean Hayes, Paul Vogt, Andrea Martin, Rikki Lake and Marissa Winokur were superfluous distractions. In the immortal words of Men on Film -"Haaaaaaaaaaaaaated it!".
    WmClarke and hornytwells like this.
  2. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    I was so looking forward to THIS, and although overall I did enjoy it, they had a lot of technical and sound difficulties, and I didn't feel it was a s "polished" as the Live production of GREASE.

    The New lead Maddie was adequate for the role, and Derrick Hough and Jennifer Hudson chewed up the scenery of every scene they were in. Of course , the show stopper "Cant stop the Beat" was, as always the crowd pleaser. Harvey seemed tired and bored, as he should after playing this role 10 million times over the span of decades..
    OneFinger likes this.
  3. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    Though I too had some reservations, I guess I liked it a lot more than either of you, lol.

    Agreed that Darren Criss' segments were annoying. All of that "behind the scenes" stuff should have been better highlighted in the preview show, which have been good in the past, but this time was horrid. (Part of it due to the fact that, sorry - I can't deal with Chenoweth's chirpiness and bizarre dry humor. I liked her a lot as Velma Von Tussle - but I really can't take her caricature of a "real-life" persona.)

    I liked the star cameos, and the clever references built into the set. (They're of course in the text too, and sometimes in the music - though Hairspray is not technically a "meta-musical" it does have some leanings to that style.)

    I think both Fierstein and Short looked more than a bit long in the tooth, but I did like their performances. I disagree that Fierstein was tired/bored. I also admit that I've never been a huge fan of Short's singing, but last night he scored with a dynamite "Timeless To Me."

    Some of the roles felt underperformed - while I didn't think they were miscast (and almost all of these Zadan/Meron productions, both live and the previous filmed for TV ones - are infamous for horrifyingly bad "WTF??" miscasting) but they didn't come up to the roles either. Ariana Grande was cute with the nerdy side of Penny, but, just as on the Macy's Parade presentation, she sings in some unintelligible language. The cutie playing Link sang well, but he was also rather limp. (Some of my friends said he was "too gay," I just think he was too bland.)

    After some odd glitches in the overstaged opening number, I do think that Maddie Baillio did quite well as Tracy. Ephraim Sykes was great as Seaweed. (And I think he snuck a Hamilton reference into the dialogue.) Hudson nailed the number that I think is the absolute emotional pinnacle of the show, "I Know Where I've Been," though the duet she sang at the end of the telecast with Grande was terribly anticlimactic, and a huge letdown after a great company rendition of "You Can't Stop The Beat." (THAT should have been the end of the presentation, period.). Derek Hough was fun as Corny. And Chenoweth's scenery-chewing Velma (with a few added moments to show off her extra-high "money notes") totally made up for her helium-induced obnoxiousness in the preview show.

    Did anyone notice, though, that Chenoweth got robbed - twice? The cameras panned away from her just as she was about to take her bow. Also, the camera wasn't on the mother/daughter pair as they made the quick but cathartic decision of "yes we can" in "You Can't Stop The Beat." Sloppy camerawork.

    But for me, the best thing about the show was that they mostly didn't futz with the material. A few cuts/changes (I much prefer the original "Madison" number to the film's replacement "Ladies' Choice" - here we got the latter), but mostly it was actually Hairspray. And though yes, the bar has been set awfully low at this point, I do think they proved they can do it right.

    I do wish they weren't doing Bye Bye Birdie next. They certainly should do it at some point - but personally I think it's way too similar in tone and substance to Hairspray to be the next choice. I assume on some level that's why they picked it, though.
  4. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    Well, you have a whole year to wait, and then you get J.Lo as Janet Leigh.... I cant wait to see who they cast as the young Hearthrob Birdie? SHAWN MENDES ???

  5. actor61

    actor61 Lord

    ANY version of Bue Bye Birdie will be better than the horrendous one with Vanessa Williams and Jason Alexander about 20 yeas ago but why do it at all? I think the producers should stop the madness - these shows are just awful, awful, awful with their distressing and dreadful stunt casting (Carrie Underwood, Alison Williams, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah), and low production values. If they're trying to introduce young people to Broadway shows, that's laudible, but do it in a way where you see a good Broadway show not some tricked out, jazzed up version with people who can't say the words or sing the notes. These productions actually make me very angry because they are so commercialized and jushed up that they have nothing to do with good theatre.

    I agree: Chenoweth is freakish, Derek Hough panders to every audience he gets in front of, Fierstein needs to find new material, Martin Short looked more like Tracy's grandfather - oh I could go on and on and on. I have NEVER understood one word in an Ariane Grande song and I didn't during Hairspray either, and I know the fucking show by heart! Jennifer Hudson drives me nuts. She is incapable of just singing a song without all those damn vocal tricks and embellishments.
  6. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    I think Short would be better in a stage production - the close-ups on him (and Fierstein) were not flattering, but I do think he did well in the role otherwise.

    I'd debate with you on Hudson - I think the style of the material (especially the gospel-ness in "I Know Where I've Been") allows for some riffing, etc. Having said that, you're totally justified to feel like it was "vocal tricks" as opposed to something more emotionally/dramatically grounded - that I would buy. (This is something we talk about with our musical theatre students - riffing/scooping/etc is often a bad habit singers get into - it's not that in the right circumstance it isn't allowable, it's just that it's most effective when it's part of deliberate expression, not just riffing for the sake of riffing. However, the latter is also what people often expect in a pop/rock context.)

    Chenoweth IS a freak, period. But I thought they found ways to accommodate that in this version that worked for the character also.

    But yes, Actor61, I agree that in general, the overall tone of these productions is always just a bit too overdone. But unfortunately, I guess that's the nature of the beast. PBS broadcasts of shows tend to have a "classier" tone to the whole presentation - that's who THEY are. I tend to think that we both prefer the PBS method, lol. But NBC just isn't going to do it that way.
    Kenny likes this.
  7. Kenny

    Kenny Duke

    In general I agree with you about how poor the show was overall. Harvey Fierstein's shtick isn't old, but he is -- at least, too old to play the mother of a 16-year old. It's biologically possible to give birth at 46, but unlikely -- especially in the early 1960s. He looks more like Tracy's grandma than her mother. (Edna would have been 32 at Tracy's birth when Harvey won the Tony for the role in 2002.)

    Jennifer Hudson, on the other hand, was great. Motormouth Maybelle is the show's pivot, and Hudson's huge voice is essential to turning that barge around. Most of the other actors, save for Martin Short (although also too old, at 66), were somewhere between annoying (Hough) and, as you say, freakish (Chenowith). And whoever had the Darren Criss idea should be banned from TV production for life. How awful.
    WilliamM likes this.
  8. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    Ha! :D

    It was clearly their attempt to keep reminding us that the show was LIVE! LIVE! LIVE!

    The result was OVERKILL! OVERKILL! OVERKILL! :rolleyes:

    (It also could have been a bit confusing to some less familiar with the musical, as it might seem that both Hough AND Criss were hosting...)
  9. hornytwells

    hornytwells Count

    Link seemed Waaaaaay more interested in Seaweed than in Tracy......
    WmClarke likes this.
  10. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    Considering the 2 characters appear in relatively few scenes together and don't really have much to do with one another, I'm not sure I buy that...
  11. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    I think an over analysis of the production is what is dulling its luster ? It is meant to be mindless, fluff, not a classy intellectual PBS production. Its not easy to pull off a project like this, and while they may not have succeeded 100%, it was a respectable effort even with all the flaws. I suspended belief and put down my magnifying glass and just appreciated the music and costumes. While I do think the production was a tad LONG, which could have been fixed by eliminating those Darren Criss commentaries, I did enjoy, as i said before. The artists performances are clearly a matter of taste and creative license, and I generally like Chenowith's work, and adore Hudson. You cant always hit the ball out of the park. The trick is in "just hitting the ball"....
    RadioRob likes this.
  12. hornytwells

    hornytwells Count

    Thats my point! They barely interact, but when they did that was my impression
  13. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    Yes, it did strike me that Link was a bit "fey", but perhaps that was the producers interpretation of the characters self-absorbed persona. ? He was still YUMMY....
  14. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    LOL ok. I mean, I've heard others say they thought Link was too gay. I'm not sure I agree that was the issue. But instead of Seaweed, had you said one of the other boys in the TV show, or Corny, I might have bought that, lol.
  15. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    There's a version on youtube, with all the commentaries and commercials edited out, that runs about an hour and 52 minutes. The whole live broadcast was about 2:55. THAT'S how many commercials (and Criss spots) we sat through. Wow.

    There was someone on one of the theatre chat boards who was totally bent out of shape that the total running time was at 2:55 instead of a rounder 3 hours. I think the rest of us feel the whole thing could have been shorter.
  16. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    Is it really meant to be "mindless fluff?" It's comedy, satire, and certainly an homage to old-fashioned musical comedy in many ways, but we can't deny the messages it sends too (something satire usually strives to do, of course). I don't tend to think of the majority of the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows as "mindless fluff" either - entertaining, enjoyable, AND with something to say to society as well. I think to call Hairspray mindless and fluff is to miss the point.
  17. deej

    deej Administrator

    Maybe his last role, as Brent Corrigan, had a bigger influence on him than he thought. o_O
  18. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    The social commentary aspect of it certainly wasnt lost on me, BUT that was not why I watched. I knew the message, but simply wanted to sit, not think, and be entertained. The same reason I go to the theatre. I didnt go to see Hamilton for a history lesson, although perhaps many people do. So in that vain, for me, its mindless fluff. I mean come on, a fat drag Queen stepping out of a Hairspray can DID NOT make me think of civil rights. I wanted to be wearing that Red sequin gown !
  19. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    Well at least he has "range" ! :p (and lives his roles) ?
  20. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    Of course not. Neither does Luther Billis dressed up as a woman in "Honey Bun" from South Pacific.

    But the song in the previous scene ("I Know Where I've Been") certainly does. There's room for both.

    And of course when you remember the context - that that "fat drag queen" is not only touting her own sense of pride, but doing so on a live 1960's Baltimore TV show that's been successfully integrated for the first time, the message is still there whether you choose to focus on it or not. "You Can't Stop The Beat" is an irresistible song on its own musical merits, but it was never meant to be just about music - the allegory in the title and lyrics is just as important.

    But yes, as an audience member, you choose to see whatever you see. That's the wonderful thing about art.