“Hairspray Live” took the stage or really the screen on NBC on December 7th, 2016 at 8pm. “Hairspray” was originally a movie which was then adapted into a Broadway musical and then was pushed to become one of NBC’s iconic live annual performances.
In the past, NBC aired “The Sound of Music” on December 5th, 2013 as their first live musical production. “Peter Pan” and “The Wiz” aired in December of 2014 and 2015 and “Bye Bye Birdie” is expected to be the next live production for next winter in 2017. For one, I’ve seen all of the NBC live productions, however, “Hairspray Live” seemed to be the one that stood out to me the most.
When a network airs something live, they’re usually trying to bring attention either to something currently happening that’s very important or they’re trying to draw in viewers into their program. With “Hairspray Live”, the catch was that the show was a Broadway musical but it could still be watched from the luxury of sitting on your couch at home. However, with watching a Broadway show from home and seeing it performed live comes with a great deal of trouble.
For one, camera angles are constantly moving. Watching a Broadway show in a theater allows the viewer to observe and see what they want to. With a broadcast show, the camera is forced to follow the action, limiting what an audience can see and experience.
Second, the sets are not in one, central location. In fact, in “Hairspray Live”, a majority of the cast would either sprint to the next set some ways away or take a golf cart and speed to the other side of the studio lot just to set up in time for the next scene. This would take away from the musical experience and therefore create three minute gaps between scenes. In a real Broadway production, the character would usually remain on stage or run off briefly just to have the set change on stage. “Hairspray Live” was just too elaborate and took too long.
Finally, the live audience was not necessary. A majority of the scenes took place in front of a live audience which was fine. However, whenever the scenes changed and the cast would be transported to the next set, NBC decided to film the audience and get their perspective on the musical. One, I would rather have sat through a commercial than listen to other people scream about much they love the show. Two, I go to see a Broadway show to experience it as a whole, not see Darren Criss interrupt the fourth wall after every scene! Shut up! This element took me away from the production greatly.
While I do love “Hairspray” on Broadway, I’ll have to say that this live version is something that I hope I don’t have to endure again.