Harvey Fierstein & Jerry Mitchell Talk NBC's HAIRSPRAY LIVE! Reveal Details on Lake, Winokur Cameos!
Today, BWW participated in a media conference call with HAIRSPRAY LIVE's teleplay writer and actor Harvey Fierstein and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Below, check out highlights from the call, including details on recently announced cameos from former Tracy Turnblads Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur, and whether or not Fierstein would consider reprising the role of Edna on Broadway!
Speaking on the differences between choreographing for a staged version of HAIRSPRAY and a production for television, Mitchell explains, "the great thing is, you're working with a 360 degree angle with television, you're not in a proscenium like in the theater. It's a little more like a theater in the round. So it's exciting and we're getting some amazing footage."
Fierstein, who has performed in the show onstage countless times, said he has a deep understanding of what the show does for an audience, and knows that audiences leave the theater "so high and so happy." Therefore his main concern was, how do you translate that to the home, how do you get that same reaction with the much more intimate medium of television? As a result, he stuck as closely as he could to the Broadway version, "making a few adjustments to help the story live on that smaller box, but still getting viewers as excited and happy about life."
Of the newest Tracy Turnblad, Maddie Baillio, Fierstein gushes that she is "a true star" with a wonderful voice and "indomitable spirit." He adds that she "moves and attacks Jerry's choreography with gusto and doesn't complain about anything," jokingly adding, "and trust me, we are working her hard!"
BWW asked about the recently announced cameo appearances by former Tracy Turnblads Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur, and learned that the two actresses will appear together as Mr. Pinky's Girls, working alongside actor Sean Hayes, who will portray clothier Mr. Pinky. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled at Mr. Pinky's!
Asked if he would consider reprising his role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway if the opportunity arose, Fierstein replied, "You know they talk about a revival, but my next project is a play called "Gently Down the Stream" that Martin Sherman wrote and I'm really very excited about doing something new and different. But I love Edna. I owe such a debt of gratitude to her and I will always protect her and be there for her if she needs me."
Asked to comment on how the message of HAIRSPRAY is perhaps even more relevant than ever in light of recent events in the country, Mitchell shared, "when we opened HAIRSPRAY on Broadway, we had not had an African-American serving as President of the United States, and that certainly was a big part of our journey and that made things different for all of us in a very positive way. The show is certainly at the forefront of that experience. I think HAIRSPRAY is needed more today with the recent turnout of our election than ever before, because inclusion and everyone just dancing together is really what it boils down to in a very simple message."
Fierstein adds, "In the past few years we've watched the Supreme Court get rid some of the Voting Rights Act and we watched them get rid of quotas in schools, and I said to myself, 'Maybe they know better than I do? Maybe they're smarter than I am? Maybe we've gone too far.' Well, we just had an election where we found out very strongly and in no uncertain terms, no we haven't gone that far. And I don't think it's a terrible thing, I think it's a good thing to know where you are for real. When you're kidding yourself, you're kidding yourself, and I think America just got a wake-up call as to who we are and what our differences are. And we now know the work ahead of us."
He continues, "and HAIRSPRAY is a really good reminder that just a few years ago in our history, we couldn't even dance together. I think we need to remember that and ask, is that really what we want to go back to? Do we really want to go back to days when people lived in constant fear of touching each other, of dancing with each other, of being together? Do we want a separate, divided America or do we want an America that is stronger because we're all together? HAIRSPRAY, in a very gentle, fun John Waters way, carries that message. And I hope that people tune in and enjoy it."
Stay tuned for additional news from today's conference call!
Find the latest news on "Hairspray Live!" click here
Award-winning Broadway musical, "HAIRSPRAY LIVE!" is a bold new television production coming to NBC on Wednesday, Dec. 7 (8/7c). In 1962 Baltimore, teenager Tracy Turnblad's (newcomer Maddie Baillio) dreams come true when she earns a spot dancing on the "Corny Collins Show," and uses her newfound fame to campaign for the integration of the all-white TV program. "Hairspray Live!" also stars Dove Cameron, Kristin Chenoweth, Garrett Clayton, Harvey Fierstein, Ariana Grande, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph.
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein will reprise the Tony Award-winning role he created on Broadway as Edna Turnblad in "Hairspray Live!" Fierstein is the author of the revised book for the new smash hit production of "Funny Girl," currently running in London, and wrote the teleplay for NBC's broadcast of "The Wiz Live!," which aired in 2015. An updated production of "The Wiz" will be heading to Broadway with his new book. He has also penned the Tony and Olivier Award-winning Best Musical "Kinky Boots" as well as the recent Broadway hits "Newsies" (Tony nomination), "Casa Valentina" (Tony nomination, Best Play), "Torch Song Trilogy" (Tony, Drama Desk and Obie Awards), "La Cage aux Folles" (Tony and Drama Desk Awards), "A Catered Affair" (12 Drama Desk nominations), "Safe Sex" (Ace Award), "Legs Diamond," "Spookhouse," "Flatbush Tosca," "Common Ground" and more. As an actor, Fierstein is known worldwide for his performances in films that include "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Independence Day" and "Bullets Over Broadway"; on stage in "Hairspray" (Tony Award), "Fiddler on the Roof," "La Cage aux Folles" and Torch Song Trilogy (Tony Award); and on TV series such as "Smash," "How I Met Your Mother," "The Good Wife," "Cheers" (Emmy nomination), "The Simpsons," "Family Guy" and "Nurse Jackie." Fierstein's political editorials have been published in The New York Times, TV Guide and the Huffington Post and broadcast on PBS' "In the Life," while his children's book, "The Sissy Duckling" (Humanitas Award), is now in its fifth printing.
A two-time Tony winner and eight-time nominee Jerry Mitchell is choreographer and associate producer of "Hairspray Live!" He is currently represented on Broadway as the director of the Gloria Estefan bio-musical "On Your Feet." He earned his Tonys for the choreography of the 2013 Tony-winning Best Musical "Kinky Boots," for which he was also nominated as director, and the 2005 revival of "La Cage Aux Folles." He was recently nominated for an Olivier Award for his choreography in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," which he also directed and co-produced in the West End. In the 35 preceding years, Mitchell has been involved with more than 50 Broadway, Off-Broadway, West End and touring productions, starting as a dancer for Agnes De Mille in "Brigadoon" and thereafter assisting Michael Bennett and Jerome Robbins. His Broadway debut as choreographer on "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" was followed by "The Full Monty," "The Rocky Horror Show," "Hairspray," "Gypsy," "Never Gonna Dance," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Imaginary Friends," "Legally Blonde," which he also directed, "Catch Me If You Can" and "Kinky Boots." He also choreographed both the Off-Broadway productions and films of "Hedwig & the Angry Inch" and "Jeffrey," the national tour of "Jekyll & Hyde," Paper Mill Playhouse's critically acclaimed "Follies," featuring Ann Miller, and "Love Never Dies," Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to his "Phantom of the Opera" for the West End. He also supervised the Broadway production of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Mitchell's film work includes "In and Out," "Scent of a Woman," "Jeffrey," "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and "Camp." For television, he choreographed several seasons of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," was nominated for an Emmy for the choreography he created for "The Drew Carey Show," was featured as the host of "Step It Up and Dance" and served as director and choreographer of "Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods" and "Ice Loves Coco." Mitchell has also recently expanded his activities as a theater producer by forming a partnership with one of the most active and respected West End producers and theater owners, Ambassador Theatre Group, with the goal of developing musicals for the West End and Broadway stages. Twenty-seven years ago, Mitchell conceived and created "Broadway Bares," a comedy burlesque show performed annually for the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He continues to serve as executive producer of "Broadway Bares," with a book, website and satellite productions in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., Las Vegas ("Peepshow," which enjoyed a five-year run of continuous performances) and London ("West End Bares"). Most recently, Mitchell received the Drama League's Founders' Award for Excellence in Directing and the George Abbott Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers, the latter being especially meaningful to him in that he was directed by the 96-year-old Abbott in the Broadway revival of "On Your Toes." A native of Paw Paw, Mich., Mitchell attended Webster Conservatory in St. Louis, from which he received an honorary doctorate.
Photos by: Michael Desmond/NBC
Follow Caryn Robbins at @CarynRobbins