Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Reveal New Details on NBC's HAIRSPRAY LIVE!

By: Oct. 13, 2016

Today, BWW participated in a live conference call with HAIRSPRAY LIVE! executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who answered questions on the development of the highly anticipated live broadcast, the latest on the cast and crew, and the start of rehearsals on the Universal lot in California. Check out the juicy, new updates we learned below!

Discussing the role of the live audience (which was announced back in April), Meron explained, "It's going to be functioning in two ways... Naturally, story-wise, there is an audience for "The Corny Collins Show", so we will have that as kind of a natural extension to the story of Hairspray Live! Plus, in another location, we will have just a general audience that will be there to watch, observe, react and hopefully have a really good time."

In addition, the exec revealed that a web site will soon be set up whereby fans who are interested in participating in the live audience may sign up for a chance to be selected.

The creatives also announced that Universal's iconic "Back to the Future" Clock Tower movie set will be used as the backdrop for the city of Baltimore.

Zadan explained to BroadwayWorld that while the broadcast will not feature any original music, fans will be hearing songs that were specifically written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman for the 2007 film adaptation of the musical. In addition, every song from the Broadway show will be included.

Meron also shared with BroadwayWorld that there is a "strong possibility" that viewers will see a cameo appearance (s) from actresses who have previously portrayed the iconic role of Tracy Turnblad.

Asked about an update for the previously announced revival of THE WIZ!, Neil Meron shared that the goal is still to get it back on Broadway as soon as possible, but there is currently "a log jam for available theaters," and the show is now "waiting on the runway" for a theater to open up. They added that they would "love to have as many cast members from THE WIZ LIVE! who would want to do it." As of now, there haven't been any discussions or plans for a HAIRSPRAY revival on Broadway.

Craig Zadan revealed that Ariana Grande's representation contacted them to play the role of Penny, and not vice versa, and that the creative team was "overwhelmed and thrilled" that she wanted to be a part of it. They added that she was extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project, and had absolutely no interest in having a special number written for her, but instead believed the adaptation should remain 100% true to the original.

BroadwayWorld also asked what the biggest takeaway from THE WIZ LIVE was. Meron shared that it was the experience of working with director Kenny Leon, who will once again take on directing duties for HAIRSPRAY LIVE!. Meron cited Leon's great "sense of stability and vision." He added that with each live production experience, new lessons are learned as they become more and more comfortable with the genre, and in turn learn not to feel "daunted by live television." Zadan added that having Harvey Fierstein return to write the book for HAIRSPRAY LIVE, as he had done for THE WIZ LIVE!, was yet another great asset.

Meron shared that rehearsals have been "going great" thus far.

Asked about future live productions, the execs said that they will continue to search for shows that are family-oriented and appropriate for families to watch together during the holiday season.

NBC's HAIRSPRAY LIVE will air Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and will originate from Los Angeles. The all-star cast includes Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Mabel, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad, Derek Hough as Corny Collins, Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Andrea Martin as Prudy Singleton and Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle. Rosie O'Donnell and Sean Hayes will also make special appearances in the broadcast.

Live television director Alex Rudzinski will join director Kenny Leon ("The Wiz Live!"). Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the upcoming "A Few Good Men Live!") serve as executive producers of "Hairspray Live!" Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell ("Kinky Boots," "On Your Feet") will serve as choreographer for the live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman ("Smash" and Broadway's upcoming "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). Derek McLane serves as set designer.
Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "Hairspray Live!" takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad's dream is to dance on "The Corny Collins Show," a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy's mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white "Corny Collins Show."