Hairspray changes: Pre Broadway - Broadway

Younger Brother
Broadway Star
joined:8/27/12
Hey everyone! Last week I saw the UK tour of Hairspray and got thinking, what changes were made from the pre Broadway tryout in Seattle to the Broadway premiere? I've often heard Harvey was an uncredited writer on the show and was curious to know just how much of the book (which I always felt was the weakest part of the show) was his?
Starship
Leading Actor
joined:7/29/12
The songs cut from the Seattle try-out were: "Blood on the Pavement," "The Status Quo," "Rage," "It Doesn't Get Better Than This," "Positivity," "The New Girl In Town," "The Mother Daughter Cha-Cha-Cha," "Step on Up," "Take A Spin," "It Ain't Over Till The Fat Lady Sings."

There were also plot changes. After the auditions, there was a scene in the Har-De-Har Hut in which Wilbur tried to cheer up Tracy after her rejection,[43] singing that "It Doesn't Get Better than This". Later replaced by the similar "Positivity", the scene was later cut early in the Seattle tryout as it was deemed emotionally redundant. Also, early on in the genesis of the show, the plot involved a "Miss Auto Show" competition, as in the 1988 film, instead of "Miss Teenage Hairspray". For this competition, later revised due to the cost of cars onstage, there was a song called "Take a Spin" sung by Corny in the place where “(It’s) Hairspray” is now.

Lastly, in early revisions, various songs, including "The Status Quo" and "Velma’s Cha-Cha" (its short reprise replaced by “Rage,” in turn dropped in favor of “Velma’s Revenge”), were used during Tracy’s audition and dismissal, but the team instead optioned for "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", as the audience did not like seeing Tracy being verbally attacked after "I Can Hear the Bells".

There were also some lyric changes and costume cuts and additions, but the above mentions the major revisions.
North2009
Understudy
joined:5/19/11
Thank you for the information. Interesting stuff.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I don't think many of those cut songs actually made it to the Seattle stage, but rather were just from previous drafts/workshops.
ClumsyDude15
Broadway Legend
joined:12/11/06
Several of the above mentioned songs are included on the two disc edition of the Hairspray movie soundtrack.

"The New Girl in Town" is, obviously, in the film itself.




Hairspray (2-Disc Collector's Edition Soundtrack)

"I'm raisin hell and I'm a felon in a four foot frame" --- Bring It On: The Musical.
"It's supposed to hurt. That's how you know it meant something" -- Peter and the Starcatcher.
Updated On: 4/7/13 at 06:07 PM
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I read somewhere that they wrote several more songs for the film to replace "Miss Baltimore Crabs", but that Pfeiffer finally said, "Why don't I just sing the song you hired me to sing?" (The context in the article had the writers blaming themselves for not solving the problem, not the star.)

Too bad. Not only is "Crabs" a one-joke song in an otherwise fun score, it makes no sense to me. To whom is Velma telling the story of screwing judges to win a beauty pageant? Her daughter? Tracy and the kids? Corny?

It's even less clear on stage.
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
Crabs is one of my favorite songs in the score, It's pure glamour!! And Pfeiffer renditions was brilliant.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Are you serious, allthatjazz? I do laugh at the stanza about twirling flaming batons and singing Aida while making a souffle and, of course, the title is amusing the first time we hear it. (So I should have said "two-joke song".)

But can you honestly tell me you could diagram that song and tell us to whom Velma is singing, stanza by stanza? (Especially on stage where there is no flashback.)

No matter how much we may like a song for its own sake, it also has to have a dramatic context that we can recognize.

"Pure glamour"? You're kidding, right? Okay, I get it. Because the song does little but mock Velma's idea that a small-city pageant and a local TV show are "glamorous". Never mind. The joke's on me. LOL.





Updated On: 4/7/13 at 07:07 PM
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
Ok, so the song may not be perfect and it may not serve the story, but I just love it! I think the music itself is what makes it so glamorous. Plus I love the fierceness of Velma, even if its just a small city pageant. It ilustrates how she's willing to do ANYTHING to win.

I haven't seen the stage version, so maybe that's why I like the song so much. In film it works perfectly as far as I'm concerned.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
It definitely worked better in the film. And I don't hate the song. I just "fall out of the story" when a kid says, "Oh, no, mother's boring stories again" and then "Mother" starts talking about screwing pageant judges.

I also think it's confusing that the song really needs to establish Velma as the guardian of public decorum in the song (as opposed to the "dirty dancing" of African-Americans). So having her talk about screwing judges violates not only her character, but her purpose in the plot.

Basically, I think the writers sold their souls for a joke that isn't that funny.

But that's no reason you shouldn't enjoy the song on its own. Personally, I enjoy following the interior rhymes with "Balt". (Really. I'm not being facetious.)
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
I think that the song is supposed to represent how flawed the white perspective was at the time, it didn't matter what they did as long as they kept it "white." The same message is carried throughout the film. I find her character and that particular moment highly cynical.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Interesting. And FWIW I am a native of the segregated South; we didn't abolish the "colored drinking fountains" until I was 11.

But like all psychopathologies, racism has its specific forms. Don't get me wrong: I love the film of HAIRSPRAY (JT notwithstanding) and have seen it many, many times.

I wouldn't mind, however, if the piece were a little more consistent in the way racism is represented. I know it's a comedy and it should be. What could be more ridiculous than separate drinking fountains for me and my best, 10-year-old friend? But there are a few places where the story of HAIRSPRAY could be a tad more consistent.

But, hey: the fact that it takes 10 minutes to get Tracy smuggled into the TV studio in a giant hairspray can while her father (in drag!) just sneaks in the exit door didn't keep me from seeing the film 8 or 9 times in the movie theater. (And that's a lot for me.)
darreyl102
Broadway Star
joined:8/23/08
Crabs is meant to tell you who Velma is, after she sings this song, we learn pretty much all we need to know about her:
1. She's a Bigot
2. She hates anybody who doesn't fit HER idea of beauty
3. She did whatever it took to get her crab crown and in turn, will do anything to get her daughter her own crown- lie, cheat and steal.
4. It establishes her as the villain, I have seen productions were both of Velma's songs were cut (Hollywood Bowl) and it completely ruined the character. she wasn't an established villain, but a rude, white woman.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I agree that she NEEDS a song there, I just think she needs a better song.

She accomplishes everything on your list in about 20 seconds (she is a cardboard character, after all) and then continues singing for another 5 minutes. So they try to work in some of the plot about Tracy failing her audition; in the film they even do a few lines to establish that Link and Amber are mismatched.

But the song doesn't do all that with the brilliance of plot-driving numbers like "Without Love" or "The Blacker the Berry" or "Big, Blonde and Beautiful".

That's all I'm saying. If you like the song, don't let me stop you.
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
Wow, Gaveston I love your insight. I'm fascinated by 20th century history so I'm always excited to hear stories from people who actually lived through those times.
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
But can you honestly tell me you could diagram that song and tell us to whom Velma is singing, stanza by stanza? (Especially on stage where there is no flashback.)

To quote The Full Monty musical:

Holy g-dd-mn-d f-ck-ng sh-t...

Songs have to pass a diagraming test! I guess grad school didn't include a section on interior monologues?
"Colbert is toast after this latest flap." -- Mr Roxy "Read 'Atlas Shrugged'." -- Gothampc
JohnyBroadway
Broadway Star
joined:4/10/12
Hairspray being one of my favorite musical scores. I think Crabs is quite catchy and sets up Velma's backstory and motives, quite well.
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
That all may very well be true, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. But if we can't diagram it...
"Colbert is toast after this latest flap." -- Mr Roxy "Read 'Atlas Shrugged'." -- Gothampc
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Wow, Gaveston I love your insight. I'm fascinated by 20th century history so I'm always excited to hear stories from people who actually lived through those times.

all that jazz, my friend, I can honestly say I have never felt as old as I do right now. LOL.

Come by sometime and I'll pour you a glass of swee'tea and we'll sit on the front porch rockers...
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
Not old, Gaveston, wise, insightful, experienced, enlightening...

The more you have lived the stronger you are.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Songs have to pass a diagraming test! I guess grad school didn't include a section on interior monologues?

Namo, yes, I've heard of interior monologues. But other characters don't normally respond to them in representational plays.

IN MY VIEW (and everyone is entitled to take a different one), "Miss Baltimore Crabs" is problematic because it wanders from private comments to Velma's daughter, to remarks that must be Velma's personal thoughts, to instructions to the dancers and auditioners as a whole and back again. So the reality of the stage world is stretched until it rips.

And, no, I don't know a single director or actor of any significant skill and experience who doesn't diagram the entire play or at least his part down to the smallest beats and actions. How an actress playing Velma could do it, I don't know.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Thanks, jazz. I trust it was clear I wasn't offended.
all that jazz
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/12
It was clear.
E.Davis
Broadway Legend
joined:1/1/08
I love "Velma's Revenge", it does more for the then "Crabs" does (even though it is one of my favorites in the show) but I wish "Save Your Applause till the End" was in the show. It is so delicious and the lyrics are brilliant.
"I think lying to children is really important, it sets them off on the right track" -Sherie Rene Scott-
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Davis, I don't know all the iterations of the show. Are those alternatives to "Crabs", or do they come at other points in the plot?
Starship
Leading Actor
joined:7/29/12
Gretchen Biebers "Velma's Revenge," so amazing omg.

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