NBC Plans ‘Hairspray’ as 2016 Live Musical Presentation

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Courtesy of NBC

NBC has set its sights on “Hairspray” as its live musical production for 2016. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt broke the news Wednesday morning at his Television Critics Association press tour presentation in Pasadena, Calif.

“Hairspray” will again by exec produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who also produced the 2007 movie musical rendition of the 1988 John Waters pic about integration of black and white hoofers on a Baltimore TV dance show in 1962. Zadan and Meron have shepherded NBC’s past three live musicals, scoring last month with the staging of “The Wiz Live.”

NBC has been sorting out the rights issues to the musical and 2007 movie with Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, which released the tuner starring Zac Efron, John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky, Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Greenblatt didn’t have many more details to share about the project. He expects producers to hold open auditions to search for a “discovery” to play the lead role of Tracy Turnblad, limned by Blonsky in the movie, and to land a star for the role of Edna Turnblad, played by Travolta.

Greenblatt said “Hairspray” was chosen in part because of Zadan and Meron’s deep familiarity with the material and because “it’s just a fun show.” There had been speculation that NBC would try to mount “West Side Story” this year, but Greenblatt noted the rights to that seminal show are locked up at present by Steven Spielberg who is planning a new film version.

Greenblatt said the experience of watching 19-year-old Shanice Williams make a triumphant debut as the star of “Wiz Live” has encouraged producers to search for an unknown to lead “Hairspray.” That process probably won’t begin until the summer, he said.

Greenblatt said the process of pulling off the live holiday music has become more refined with each outing since they began in 2013 with “The Sound of Music,” a huge sleeper hit. “We’ve learned a lot — the first one we were flying by the seat of our pants and not sure if we could pull it off technically,” he said. “It gets easier as you keep doing them. We’ve spawned a new genre,” he said, nothing Fox’s live production of “Grease” set for Jan. 31.

“Hairspray” musical was written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman — who worked with NBC on “Smash” — with a book by Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell. NBC has been sorting out rights issues with Meehan and the estate of O’Donnell, who died in 2012. In announcing the selection of “Hairspray” Greenblatt quipped: “I hope the deals are done.”

The stage musical rendition of “Hairspray” starred Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur. It ran on Broadway from 2002 through January 2009. The 1988 movie directed by Waters was the breakthrough role for actress-talk show host Ricki Lake.

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  1. Eric says:

    Hairspray sounds like a good idea. If NBC wants to do something more family-friendly, I could see Oliver Twist as an alternative. Hopefully it be successful like The Sound of Music and The Wiz, and not bomb like Peter Pan.

    I’m hoping that ABC could and might be mulling over doing a live musical adaptation. I think ABC would come closest to doing an adaptation of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid… or maybe The Nightmare Before Christmas… which would probably be too easy. Unless ABC comes across something else.

  2. Megan Gonzalez says:

    I would like to audition for the role of Tracy Turnblad, as I was cast as Tracy previously in a local broadway-style production. Please contact me with information on where to audition. Thank you!

  3. cadavra says:

    1) Do it in front of an audience already.

    2) Forget the star crap and have Harvey Fierstein recreate his role as Edna. No one else can do it as well–certainly not Travolta, who screwed it up royally.

  4. As a long-time music theater nerd, I am thrilled to see the trend in televised productions. Unfortunately, many good shows are ineligible for consideration because they fail to meet the family-friendly criteria of network Television. Obtaining the rights to shows that are not currently on Broadway or touring or in development for a motion picture further limits the possibilities. I think “Hairspray” is as good a choice as any. Ultimately it will come down to good casting. Hopefully the success of “The Wiz” will help attract top talent.

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