When we first vanished into our little squirrel holes a few months ago, Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber started releasing stage-to-screen adaptations of his musicals every week on YouTube. By now he’s run out of his own musicals to show, but never fear, he’s got connections! And so now we’re treated every Friday to a new musical theater gem, available to watch for just 48 hours before it vanishes back into whoever’s vault he plundered.
This weekend’s treat is Hairspray Live, the TV adaptation of the movie adaptation of the Broadway adaptation of the John Waters film. With that many leaps from medium to medium, how does the story of body positivity, feminism, and racial injustice fare? Not as badly as it could have!
Hairspray Live was the December 2016 entry into NBC’s live musical series, and it came at a time when we really needed a song in our hearts, considering the election we’d just been through. Seeing racists get their comeuppance was particularly cathartic at that moment, but I wonder how it’ll have aged in the intervening three nightmare-years; at the time, it felt like a pep rally, but now it might feel painfully obtuse in light of the actual death and misery and horror of the world.
Or who knows, maybe it’ll feel like a welcome distraction, or encouragement if you haven’t been completely beaten down by life! As the song goes, “you can’t stop today as it comes speeding down the track.” That could be just the optimism today’s activists need to hear… though I have to say, watching what’s happening in Minneapolis right now and feeling like I’m watching Los Angeles in 1992, it doesn’t always feel like it’s “today” that’s bearing down on us.
Hairspray, in all of its incarnations, has always ended with the racists defeated, television integrated, and everyone cheering like everything’s been solved. But oh no, in real life, injustice isn’t defeated in one climactic boss battle! NBC’s live version ends with Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson singing “Come so Far (Got So Far to Go)” and boy oh boy does the second half of that title feel true today.
Hairspray Live will go live Friday morning at 11am Pacific, and is scheduled to vanish into the ether on Sunday. Systemic oppression is expected to continue indefinitely.