Vilanch is the first performer to fill the role currently being made famous on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein. Vilanch's possible involvement has been a topic of discussion in the theatre community for weeks. The beefy, bearded, bespectacled Vilanch is an institution in Hollywood. He writes comic material for many of Tinsel Town's award programs, including the Oscars and Emmys.
In 2000, he starred in his own one-man show Off-Broadway, appropriately titled Almost Famous.
Vilanch is a friend of Hairspray's composers-lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and saw the musical when it premiered in Seattle. Harvey Fierstein originated the role of Edna, the heavyweight mother of pudgy Baltimore dance sensation, Tracy Turnblad. Fierstein has been widely praised for his uncampy, heartfelt approach to the role, which reviews have called a great performance, rather than a great piece of female impersonation. Producers have stressed in casting notices that they want a man to play the role in the national tour. Hairspray continues to play to crowds at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway.