When Hairspray opened on Broadway in 2002, was an instant smash and earned 13 Tony Award nominations, taking home eight including Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Original Score. Adapted from the 1988 John Waters film, the musical features a score from composer Marc Shaiman and lyricists Scott Whitman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Directed by Tony winner Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, the musical follows spunky teenager Tracy Turnblad in 1960s segregated Baltimore as she pursues her dream of performing on The Corny Collins Show, Baltimore’s daytime dance show, and takes on issues of body image and segregation. Hairspray launched the careers of so many of its young stars and added to the success of many theater veterans, so where is its cast now?
Marissa Jaret Winokur, Tracy Turnblad
Winokur had already bowed on Broadway as Jan in the 1994 revival of Grease before she broke big as bubbly Tracy Turnblad. For this portrayal, Winokur won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, plus a Theatre World, a Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Following this success, Winokur left Hairspray in August of 2003 and transitioned to television. She has appeared on the TV series Stacked, and for years voiced characters on the cartoon shows King of the Hill and American Dad. Additionally, she has guest-starred in episodes of Melissa & Joey and Playing House. More recently, she’s crossed into reality TV. She was the winner of Season 1 of the hit reality show Celebrity Big Brother, a contestant on Season 6 of Dancing With the Stars, a co-host of the daytime talk show The Talk from 2010 to 2011, and the host of a reality dance show called Dance Your Ass Off. Hairspray fans cheered when Winokur returned to Broadway twice as one of Mr. Pinky’s clerks after her initial departure, first from June to July 2005 and then again from December 2008 to January 2009. She also enjoyed a cameo in NBC’s Hairspray Live!.
Harvey Fierstein, Edna Turnblad
Already well known for his performances in Torch Song Trilogy, and the movies Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day, originating the role of hilarious and kind-hearted Edna Turnblad only added to Harvey Fierstein’s impressive osntage career. His portrayal of this iconic role won him the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Before Hairspray, Fierstein made a name, of course, as an award-winning writer, having won the 1983 Tony for Best Play, the 1984 Tony for Best Book of a Musical for La Cage Aux Folles. After his departure from Hairspray in 2004, Broadway he returned to the stage as the hardworking and pious Tevye in the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof before returning to his writing roots. He earned additional nominations for his books of Newsies, Kinky Boots, and the play Casa Valentina. In 2007, he was inducted into the prestigious Theater Hall of Fame. The Off-Broadway revival of his Torch Song transfers to Broadway this fall and will play the Helen Hayes Theater.
Laura Bell Bundy, Amber Von Tussle
Since making her Broadway debut as the blonde, bratty, self-proclaimed queen of The Corny Collins Show, Laura Bell Bundy’s career has flourished. Shortly following her success as Amber, Bundy was cast as a standby for the role of Glinda in 2003’s Wicked, and soon after snatched up the coveted lead role of smart but sassy Elle Woods in the 2007 Broadway remake of Legally Blonde: The Musical, a role that earned her a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. Hairspray fans watched as Bundy starred as Sherrie in a Los Angeles production of Rock of Ages and she reprised her role as Elle for a single week on the national tour of Legally Blonde. Her talents extend to the screen as well; you may recognize Bundy for her recurring role in How I Met Your Mother as Robin’s co-anchor Becky (think “boats, boats, boats!”). She appeared in the 2006 film adaptation of Broadway’s Dreamgirls and was featured in a recurring role on Hart of Dixie and starred in the FX sitcom Anger Management. Bundy has created multiple country music albums including Longing For a Place Already Gone and Achin’ and Shakin’, which debuted on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Kerry Butler, Penny Pingleton
Kerry Butler’s portrayal of Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s dorky sidekick, garnered national admiration, a Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Female performer, and launched her into a long and illustrious acting career. Penny was the first role Butler originated for Broadway, having previously replaced in Les Misérables, Blood Brothers, and Beauty and the Beast. Since Hairspray, she appeared in seven Broadway works, with leading roles as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors in 2003, Clio/Kira in the 2007 production of Xanadu, Sherrie in Rock of Ages in 2009, and now stars as Mrs. Heron/Ms. Norbury.Mrs. George in Mean Girls. Butler has also graced the world of television, guestin on shows like The Mindy Project, Blue Bloods, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and 30 Rock. Like co-star Bundy, Butler has also released a solo album, titled Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust, which includes acoustic arrangements of Butler’s favorite Disney songs.
Matthew Morrison, Link Larkin
Since his breakout role as teenage heartthrob Link Larkin in Hairspray, Matthew Morrison has continued to dominate both the stage and the screen. Earning an Outer Critics Circle nomination as Link, Morrison landed roles in The Light in the Piazza in 2005, A Naked Girl on the Appian Way later that year, and starred in both the 2008 revival of South Pacific as Lieutenant Joseph Cable and the 2014 production of Finding Neverland as J.M. Barrie. Morrison shot to fame as Spanish teacher and glee club advisor Will Schuester for on Fox’s Glee, but has also appeared on such shows as The Good Wife in 2016 and Grey’s Anatomy in 2017 to 2018. He has also released music in a self-titled album, which includes duets with Elton John and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Corey Reynolds, Seaweed J. Stubbs
After his Broadway debut as suave Seaweed J. Stubbs, a role which earned him Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nominations, Corey Reynolds has appeared in many films and television shows. He appeared on all seven seasons of The Closer, which ran from 2005 to 2012, and held roles in notable films Selma and Straight Outta Compton. He appeared in the 2014 television movie Delirium as well as in shows such as CSI: Miami, Castle, Masters of Sex, and NCIS: Los Angeles.
Mary Bond Davis, Motormouth Maybelle
Mary Bond Davis is known for originating the role of Motormouth Maybelle, the wise and outspoken DJ on The Corny Collins Show’s assigned “Negro Days.” Before her Hairspray days, Davis had already performed on Broadway in Mail (1987), Jelly’s Last Jam (1991), Grease (1993), and Marie Christine (1999) before stepping into this iconic role. Since Hairspray’s run ended in 2008, Bond Davis refocused her life for a career in wellness.
Velma Von Tussle, Linda Hart
After originating the role of Velma Von Tussle, Amber’s scheming mother and the producer of The Corny Collins Show, Linda Hart returned to Broadway for Shaiman and Wittman’s Catch Me If You Can in 2011 as Carol Strong. Coincidentally, the production also starred Hairspray’s Kerry Butler, now as Carol’s daughter Brenda. Hart has appeared on television series like Desperate Housewives and The Winner.
Dick Latessa, Wilbur Turnblad
Dick Latessa’s prolific career was already established by the time he originated the role of Wilbur Turnblad, the charismatic owner of Har-de-Har joke shop and the loving and goofy father to Tracy. He had already appeared in 15 other Broadway productions, including Follies in 1971, Damn Yankees in 1993, and Cabaret in 1998. His work in Hairspray won Latessa a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award, his first in a career spanning more than 30 years. After Hairspray had finished its run in 2009, Latessa was cast in the 2010 show Promises, Promises as Dr. Dreyfuss and later led the cast of The Lyons in 2012. Latessa’s career only ended after he passed away December 19, 2016, at the age of 87 due to cardiac failure.
Clarke Thorell, Corny Collins
Since originating the role of Corny Collins, the host of The Corny Collins Show, Clarke Thorell replaced as Harry Bright in Broadway’s Mamma Mia! in 2010 and originated the role of Rooster Hannigan in the 2012 revival of Annie. He has also played Kruger in 2016 production of The Front Page alongside Nathan Lane, and most recently made joined the cast of the 2018 Broadway production of My Fair Lady, replacing Manu Narayan as Professor Zoltan Karpathy.
Jackie Hoffman, Prudy Pingleton/Gym Teacher/Matron
Jackie Hoffman made her Broadway debut originating the roles of Penny Pingleton’s overbearing mother Prudy Pingleton and others. Shortly after, she worked with Butler in Xanadu in 2007 and continued performing on Broadway in The Addams Family as Grandma in 2010, On the Town in 2014, and most recently as Mrs. Teavee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2017. She has also appeared in many television shows such as 30 Rock, Difficult People, and Curb Your Enthusiasm and earned an Emmy nomination for her work as Mamacita in Feud: Bette & Joan.
Danelle Eugenia Wilson, Little Inez
After her Broadway debut as Little Inez, Danelle Eugenia Wilson transitioned to the screen, working in movies like Girls, Girls, Girls and Women’s Playground. She formed a band with her two sisters, called Heart.
Tons of Hairspray’s ensemblists launched careers with the 2002 production and are widely known in the Broadway community today, including:
Rashad Naylor, who held roles in Hairspray as Thad and the understudy and eventual replacement for Seaweed J. Stubbs, went on to appear in the 2005 production of Jersey Boys as Hal Miller and also in the Motown the Musical in 2016.
Jennifer Gambatese, who played Brenda, has since been starred in the 2005 production of All Shook Up, Tarzan in 2006, Is He Dead? in 2007, and most recently in School of Rock - The Musical in 2016. She also joined the first national tour of Wicked as Glinda in 2013.
Shoshana Bean was also once a Denizen of Baltimore. An understudy for Tracy she went on to star as Elphaba in Wicked from 2005 to 2006 on Broadway and later joined the national tour. She recently starred in City Center’s revival of Songs for a New World and has released four solo albums.