With three live musical productions behind them, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan are upping the ante this year with their production of Hairspray Live! It will film in Los Angeles in front of a live studio audience, and here’s how it will work.
“It’s going to be functioning in two ways, interestingly enough,” Meron told Playbill on a Hairspray Live! conference call October 13 with invited press. “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 terms of recruiting the audience, we are going to be having a website very, very shortly that’s going to be up, and we’re going to be announcing it, where people can kind of sign in in hopes of becoming an audience member.”
Hairspray Live! marks the fourth NBC live musical event; it follows The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and The Wiz. All three before Hairspray were filmed on a contained soundstage in Long Island, NY. Hairspray will head to the Universal Studio lot in California.
In terms of logistics—and how Hairspray Live! will be filmed with the audience—Zadan said, “It is the biggest production we’ve done so far in so many ways. Universal is building two brand-new sound stages on the Universal lot, and we are going to use them as soon as they’re done. They will be done just before we need them, which is any minute. And we’ll be using them and be using the back lot for exterior shots and scenes and musical numbers. It is quite an enormous endeavor.”
Meron added, “In terms of the footprint, I think the footprint of this particular production is probably the biggest of any of the live musicals that have been done on television, ours included and Grease: Live included. What’s wonderful about it is that we learn and we grow from each iteration. We grew in terms of the three that we did. Grease: Live basically honored us, in terms of doing it live and then taking what we’ve done and putting their own mark on it.
“One of the sets that we are going to be using… We’re shooting in the Back to the Future plaza with that clock tower. We’re going to be redressing that as Baltimore.”
Hairspray Live! will air December 7 at 8 PM on NBC with a star-studded cast. Click here to see the full cast.