Hairspray is a musical with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, based on the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray. The songs include 1960s-style dance music and "downtown" rhythm and blues. In 1962 Baltimore, Maryland, plump teenager Tracy Turnblad's dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program based on the real-life Buddy Deane Show. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight. She then launches a campaign to integrate the show. Hairspray is a social commentary on the injustices of parts of American society in the 1960s.
The musical's original Broadway production opened on August 15, 2002 and won eight Tony Awards out of thirteen nominations. It ran for over 2,500 performances and closed on January 4, 2009. Hairspray has also had U.S. national tours, a London West End production and numerous foreign productions and was adapted for a 2007 musical film. The London production was nominated for a record-setting eleven Laurence Olivier Awards, winning for Best New Musical and in three other categories.
Background According to interviews included as an extra feature on the 2007 film's DVD release, theatre producer Margo Lion first conceived of Hairspray as a stage musical in 1998 after seeing a television broadcast of the original film. She contacted John Waters, who gave her his blessing, then acquired the rights from New Line Cinema. Lion contacted Marc Shaiman, who expressed interest in the project only if his partner Scott Wittman could be included, and Lion agreed. The two submitted three songs – one of which, "Good Morning Baltimore," eventually became the show's opening number. Based on their initial work, Lion was confident that she had hired the right team.
Lion contacted Rob Marshall about directing the musical. At the time he was involved in negotiations to direct the screen adaptation of Chicago, but he agreed to become involved in the early development stages of Hairspray with the stipulation he would drop out if assigned the film. Marshall remembered Marissa Jaret Winokur from her brief appearance in the film American Beauty and arranged a meeting with Shaiman and Wittman. The two immediately felt she was right for the role of Tracy Turnblad but were hesitant to commit without seeing any other auditions. They hired Winokur to work with them on the project with the understanding she might be replaced later. One year later, Winokur was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Certain she would lose the role if the creative team learned about her condition, she underwent chemotherapy and a hysterectomy without telling anyone but her immediate family. The treatment and surgery were successful, and Winokur returned to the project. Meanwhile, Marshall had started work on Chicago, and Jack O'Brien and Jerry Mitchell were hired by Lion to direct and choreograph, respectively. Winokur was one of the first to audition for the role of Tracy Turnblad and spent two years preparing with voice and dance lessons. Tracy's mother had been portrayed by Divine in the original film, and Shaiman liked the idea of maintaining the tradition of casting a male as Edna Turnblad. Harvey Fierstein auditioned for the role with a "half hour vocal audition" of "an entire concert". He thought they were "pacifying" him, but he was told "they don't want anyone but you".
According to Shaiman, one song, "I Know Where I've Been", became controversial during the genesis of the score:
“This was... inspired by a scene late in the  movie that takes place on the black side of town. It never dawned on us that a torrent of protest would follow us from almost everyone involved with the show. ‘It’s too sad.... It’s too preachy.... It doesn’t belong.... Tracy should sing the eleven o’clock number.’ We simply didn’t want our show to be yet another show-biz version of a civil rights story where the black characters are just background. And what could be more Tracy Turnblad-like than to give the ‘eleven o’clock number’ to the black family at the heart of the struggle? Luckily... the audiences embraced this moment, which enriches the happy ending to follow, and it is our proudest achievement of the entire experience of writing Hairspray”
Productions Original Broadway Production After a tryout at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, Hairspray opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on August 15, 2002. The production was directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with set design by David Rockwell, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, and the many distinctive wigs in the show by Paul Huntley. The original Broadway cast included Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein in the the lead roles of Tracy and Edna respectively. The cast also featured Laura Bell Bundy, Kerry Butler, Linda Hart, and Dick Latessa.
At the 2003 Tony Awards, Hairspray received nominations in 12 categories, winning 8 for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Best Direction. Marissa Janet Winokur, Harvey Fierstein and Dick Latessa also received awards for their performances.
The production ran for more than six years and 2642 performances, closing on January 4, 2009. Original star Fierstein returned to the cast on November 11, 2008 and Winokur returned on December 9 for the final performances.
Other U.S. productions The First U.S. national tour started in September 2003 in Baltimore and ended in June 2006. The touring production starred Carly Jibson as Tracy, Bruce Vilanch as Edna, Terrell Brooks as Seaweed, Sandra DeNise as Penny, Susan Cella as Velma, and Charlotte Crossley as Motormouth Maybelle. When the tour stopped in Los Angeles, Marissa Jaret Winokur reprised her role as Tracy, together with the original Broadway Link, Matthew Morrison.
In July 2006, a non-Equity U.S. tour opened in Atlantic City's Harrah's Casino. The shorter "casino version" was used for this stop of the tour, but when it moved on, it continued with the full version of the show minus the character of Lorraine. The tour was scheduled to continue at least through April 2009. A summer engagement in the Far East will follow.
A Las Vegas production ran at the Luxor Hotel in 2006 starring Katrina Rose Dideriksen as Tracy, Austin Miller as Link, and Fierstein and Latessa reprising their roles as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, respectively. This ninety-minute version was played in one act. Cut songs included "The Big Dollhouse", "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", "Velma's Revenge", "Good Morning Baltimore (Reprise)", and "Cooties".
On November 12, 2008, as part of its 200th season, the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, opened a production of Hairspray, which closed on January 4, 2009 (the same closing day as the Broadway production). The show has quickly become popular with community theaters throughout the U.S. Marissa Perry and Constantine Rousouli reprise the roles of Tracy Turnblad and Link Larkin, respectively, that they played on Broadway at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, Chicago, September 23, 2009-December 6, 2009. The production is directed and choreographed by Marc Robin.
UK productions The West End production opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 11, 2007 for previews before its official opening on October 30. Michael Ball played Edna, with Mel Smith as Wilbur Turnblad, newcomer Leanne Jones as Tracy, Tracie Bennett as Velma, Paul Manuel as Corny Collins, Rachael Wooding as Amber, Elinor Collett as Penny, and Ben James-Ellis as Link. The original creative team of the Broadway production, with director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, reunited for the London production. The show garnered a record-setting eleven Olivier Award nominations and won for Best New Musical, as well as acting awards for Best Actress and Actor in a musical (Jones and Ball). The show will close on March 28, 2010 after a run of nearly two-and-a-half years and over 1,000 performances.
In August 2008, the British television channel Sky1 began broadcasting Hairspray: The School Musical, which followed the development of a North London comprehensive school's production of Hairspray from audition to performance, with input from various actors and creatives, including members of the Broadway production team and the West End cast.[
Shortly after the West End production's closing, Hairspray will tour the UK, starting at the Wales Minnennium Centre in Cardiff on March 30, 2010. Michael Ball and Brian Conley will play Edna, alternating theatres, with Laurie Scarth as Tracy Turnblad.
International productions The first international production ran for 245 performances in Toronto in 2005 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Vanessa Olivarez, a former American Idol contestant, starred as Tracy, and Jay Brazeau starred as Edna.
The South African production opened in Johannesburg in October 2007 with the original direction and choreography recreated by Matt Lenz and Greg Graham. New set and costume designs were by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. Other productions opened in Canada, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Italy, St. Gallen, Switzerland (in German) and Brazil.
A production in Buenos Aires, Argentina, opened on July 16, 2008 starring Enrique Pinti as Edna Turnblad. The role of Tracy was cast through a reality-competition show called Yo Quiero Ser la Protagonista de Hairspray(I Want to Be Hairspray's Protagonist). The musical also played in Shanghai, China, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre in July 2008 and Stockholm, Sweden in September 2008. Other productions are planned for Puerto Rico, Germany, France, Israel, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Mexico. Hairspray has been translated into Finnish, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese.
On November 14, 2008, Atlantis Productions opened a production of Hairspray in Manila in the Philippines, starring Madel Ching as Tracy Turnblad and Michael de Mesa as Edna Turnblad. The production closed on December 7, 2008.
On July 10, 2009, a Brazilian production opened in Rio de Janeiro, starring Edson Celulari as Edna and Daniele Winitz as Amber. A tour has also been announced, with stops in São Paulo, Brasilia, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.
A Dutch production of the musical will be produced by V&V Entertainment for the 2009/2010 season. Edna Turnblad will be played by Arjan Ederveen, Link Larkin by Jim Bakkum (runner-up in the first season of the dutch American Idol).
On December 6, 2009 a German production opens in Cologne. Edna Turnblad will be played alternately by the well known German actor Uwe Ochsenknecht and the in Germany also well known comedian Tetje Mierendorf. Tracy Turnblad will be played by Maite Kelly, former member of The Kelly Family and Penny Pingleton by Jana Stelley.
Cruise ship adaptation It has been announced that Royal Caribbean International would present a 90-minute version, possibly the Las Vegas version, of the show onboard their new ship MS Oasis of the Seas, which makes it maiden sailing in December 2009. The show is to be performed in the ship's 1350 seat Opal Theater three or four times on each seven night sailing. Casting is unknown at this time.
Synopsis Setting: Baltimore, Maryland, June 1962
Act 1 As “pleasantly plump” teenager Tracy Turnblad lies in bed, she muses about her love for her hometown, her love of dancing, and her desire to be famous ("Good Morning Baltimore"). After school, Tracy rushes home with best friend Penny to catch "The Nicest Kids in Town" on the local teenage dance show, The Corny Collins Show. Edna, Tracy’s shy and plus-sized mother, is ironing and complains about the noise of the music coming from the television, while Penny’s mother, Prudy complains about it being race music. After an announcement that auditions for a place on the show will be held, Tracy begs her mother for permission to audition. Edna, fearing that Tracy will be laughed at due to her weight, refuses. Penny and Amber (the main dancer at the Corny Collins Show) have similar arguments with their mothers ("Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now").
After gaining permission and support from her father, Wilbur, Tracy auditions for the show and bumps into teenage heartthrob, Link Larkin, which leads into a dream sequence ("I Can Hear the Bells"). Velma Von Tussle, the racist producer of The Corny Collins Show, rejects Tracy from the audition because of her size ("(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs"). Velma also rejects a black girl, Little Inez.
Back at school, Tracy is sent to detention again because her hair was “obstructing everyone’s view of the blackboard.” There she meets black dancer, Seaweed J. Stubbs (the son of the host of Negro Day, Motormouth Maybelle), who teaches her several dance moves. She uses the new dance steps at the Sophomore Hop the following day to introduce herself to Corny Collins ("The Madison"). When Corny sees how well Tracy can dance, he gives her a place on the show ("The Nicest Kids in Town" (Reprise)). During the broadcast, Corny suggests that Link sing "It Takes Two" to her and Link quickly accepts, much to Amber’s dismay. After the show, Mr. Spritzer, the show’s worrisome sponsor, appeals to Velma over Tracy’s appointment to the Council. Velma, threatening to fire Corny from the show, is eventually left distraught and becomes determined to ruin Tracy ("Velma’s Revenge").
At the Turnblad house, Edna is receiving calls from fans who saw Tracy on the show. A call comes in from Mr. Pinky, the owner of a plus size dress shop, for an endorsement. Tracy pleads with her mother to come with her and to act as her agent although Edna has not left their apartment in years. Finally making it outside, Edna is given a huge makeover, as she is told, "Welcome to the 60's" and Tracy becomes the spokes-girl for the shop. Signs of Tracy’s fame are evident in the schoolyard, with graffiti on the walls and another Council Member sporting Tracy’s signature hairdo. At school, Amber, jealous of Tracy’s fame, viciously throws a ball at her head in a game of dodge ball, knocking Tracy unconscious. After the game, Link comforts Tracy as Penny and Seaweed, who have developed a liking for each other, rush to fetch the school nurse, only to find her out sick. Seaweed, suggesting that some fun would make Tracy feel better, invites all of them to his mother’s record shop for a platter party ("Run and Tell That!").
At the shop, Tracy rallies everyone to march against the station on the next day’s Mother-Daughter Day, as African Americans are not allowed on the show except for the once-a-month Negro Day. Before they start, Motormouth Maybelle convinces the initially reluctant Edna and Wilbur to march as well. During the protest, led by Motormouth, Velma calls the police and fights break out. When the police arrive on the scene, almost everyone is arrested ("Big, Blonde, and Beautiful").
Act 2 Almost all of the women are now in "The Big Dollhouse". Because of Velma’s dirty tactics, the governor pardons and releases both her and Amber. Wilbur bails out the remaining people, excluding Tracy who is forced to remain in jail through another one of Velma’s manipulations. Tracy is alone and wishes that Link could be with her ("Good Morning Baltimore" (Reprise)). Back at the Har-De-Har Hut (Wilbur's joke shop), Wilbur and Edna are left destitute because of the money it cost them to bail everyone out and with Tracy still in prison. Edna sympathizes with her daughter’s dream –she had dreamt of making her “own line of queen-sized dress patterns”. She and Wilbur reminisce about their past and how they can never be parted from each other ("(You’re) Timeless to Me").
During the night, Link sneaks into the jail where he finds Tracy in solitary confinement. As Link and Tracy reunite, Penny’s mother, Prudy, punishes Penny for “going to jail without her permission” and ties her up in her bedroom where Seaweed comes to her rescue. Both couples declare their love for one another ("Without Love"). After escaping from their respective prisons, the couples seek refuge at Motormouth Maybelle’s Record Shop. Tracy thinks that it is unfair that after all of their hard work, The Corny Collins Show is still segregated. They devise a plan to help integrate the show, and Motormouth remembers their long fight for equality ("I Know Where I’ve Been").
On the day of the Miss Teenage Hairspray competition, Corny Collins starts the show with a song ("(It’s) Hairspray"). Amber shows off her talents in a bid to get more votes from the viewers ("Cooties"). Just as the results are about to be announced, Tracy takes over the stage, and is joined by Link, Penny (now transformed from drool to cool), Seaweed, Edna, Wilbur, Little Inez, and Motormouth ("You Can’t Stop the Beat"). Tracy is declared the winner of the competition and she declares that The Corny Collins Show is officially integrated. When all is announced, Mr. Spritzer runs onstage thrilled with the public’s response to the telecast and announces that the governor has pardoned Tracy and he offers Link a recording contract and Velma to be vice president of Ultra Glow- Beauty products for women of color. Prudy arrives at the station and, seeing how happy Penny is with Seaweed, accepts her daughter for who she is. At the height of the moment, the company invites Amber and Velma to join the celebration. With the station in joyous celebration, Tracy and Link share their first kiss.
Response Critics According to Variety, Hairspray received thirteen favorable and four mixed reviews. Charles Isherwood, in his Variety review wrote: "...this sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection won't be lacking for buyers any time soon. Arriving in an aerosol fog of advance hype, it more than lives up to its promise." Ben Brantley wrote: "So what if it's more than a little pushy in its social preaching? Stocked with canny, deliriously tuneful songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and directed by Jack O'Brien with a common touch that stops short of vulgarity, 'Hairspray' is as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay. ...[it] succeeds in recreating the pleasures of the old-fashioned musical comedy without seeming old-fashioned. ...Shaiman... is taking the infectious hooks and rhythms from period pop and R&B and translating them into the big, bouncy sound that Broadway demands.... And while the savvy arrangements... nod happily to Motown, Elvis, Lesley Gore ballads and standards like "Higher and Higher," the score's appeal isn't nostalgic. It's music that builds its own self-contained, improbably symmetrical world...." New York's Daily News wrote, "As Tracy, Marissa Jaret Winokur has the heft, the pipes and an enormously appealing stage presence. Her dancing may not be as special as the plot suggests, but she wins your heart... With this role, Fierstein places himself in the great line of Broadway divas."
Box office and business Hairspray opened with a $12 million advance; after the Tony Awards show (in June 2003), it was expected to do five times the business it normally did on a Monday. The entire $10.5 million investment was recouped by May 2003 (approximately 9 months after its Broadway opening). For 2002-03 it averaged 99% capacity; for 2007 it averaged 86 %.