Get to Know the Cast of Hairspray Live!

Special Features   Get to Know the Cast of Hairspray Live!
With theatre veterans and newcomers welcoming the ’60s this fall on NBC, we put together everything you need to know about the cast for the live broadcast musical.
Maddie Baillio
Maddie Baillio NBC

As is now becoming tradition, NBC will air a live musical television event this December. Hairspray Live! is set to hit the air December 7 at 8 PM ET. The 2002 premiere was a Tony-winning success on Broadway and prompted a film version of the movie musical in 2007 (starring John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Brittany Snow and more).

Audiences can’t get enough of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s score, so executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan decided it was the perfect choice for a followup to their successful The Wiz Live! Tony-winning director Kenny Leon returns to helm the broadcast, with original Tony-winning Hairspray choreographer Jerry Mitchell also on board. Harvey Fierstein, who will also star, will adapt is Tony-winning book from the musical for live TV. Meet the stars of the latest incarnation of Hairspray—the greatest reason to host another musical theatre-themed viewing party.

Harvey Fierstein, Edna Turnblad

Harvey Fierstein in <i>Hairspray</i>.
Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray. Paul Kolnik

The signature scratchy voice, the comedic timing, the warmth of heart, honestly, no one does justice to the role of Edna Turnblad like Broadway’s original. The man won a Tony in 2003 for his performance in the role. He brings a unique sense of grit and sensitivity to the part, while injecting it with his raunchy tongue-in-cheek sensibility. In recent years, Fierstein has invested in his writer side, earning Tony nominations for writing Casa Valentina, the book to Kinky Boots and the book to Disney’s Newsies. With Hairspray Live! Fierstein will write the teleplay for the live musical event and play the lead. We can hear the bells.

Maddie Baillio, Tracy Turnblad

Maddie Baillio
Maddie Baillio NBC

Originally from Texas, Baillio was cast in the lead real of Tracy after attending an open casting call in New York. She recently finished her second year at Marymount Manhattan College. The 20-year-old actress seemed destined to take on the role: She sang “Good Morning Baltimore,” the show’s opening number, when she was in fifth grade. In 2014, Biallio won the final prize in The Songbook Competition as part of the Great American Songbook Academy, a summer music intensive for young artists.

Watch her performance in the competition here:

Martin Short, Wilbur Turnblad

Martin Short in White Rabbit Red Rabbit Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

Is there anyone more innocently charming than Short? (“You want the chicken or the vahl?”) The star comedian is a great pick for the innocuous joke shop owner and loving dad to Tracy. No doubt he and Fierstein will have a ball playing off of each other. The two even look funny next to one another. Aside from his extensive film work, Short is no stranger to Broadway. The actor won a 1999 Tony for his performance in Little Me and bowed on Broadway in 2006 in the musical autobiography he conceived, wrote and starred in, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. Most recently, he replaced Nathan Lane in Broadway’s 2014 production of It’s Only a Play.

Jennifer Hudson, Motormouth Maybelle

HR - Jennifer Hudson.jpg
Jennifer Hudson

Fresh off of her lauded Broadway debut in The Color Purple, Hudson takes on the role of the big, blonde and beautiful Motormouth Maybelle. The Grammy-winning recording artist and singer is an obvious choice for the radio DJ with two solo songs in the show. Get ready for some brassiness in “Big Blonde and Beautiful” and some tenderness more reminiscent of her Oscar-winning Dreamgirls performance of “I Am Changing.” In her own life, Hudson has a young son, and it will be nice to see that maternal side of her come out in her performance as Seaweed and Little Inez’s mother. An Academy Award winner, Hudson is comfortable in front of a camera and Hairspray Live! should be no exception.

Kristin Chenoweth, Velma Von Tussle

Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Any reason to see more of Chenoweth is a good reason. We can’t wait to see the evil side of her come at as Miss Baltimore Crabbs. As a former Tony Awards host, Chenoweth can tap into that authority to play the producer of The Corny Collins Show. The three-time Tony nominee has the sassiness and the presence to play the show’s villain, and we can’t wait to see her play opposite Fierstein’s Edna. Even better news, Chenoweth has already played actor Dove Cameron’s mother, as the two played Maleficent and Mal in Disney’s Descendants.

Take a look at their duet “Evil Like Me”:

Dove Cameron, Amber Von Tussle

Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron
Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron

The 20-year-old actress is another Disney Channel import ready to make her big splash with Hairspray Live! A native of Seattle, Cameron has been doing community theatre since she was eight years old and plays the dual title roles of Liv and Maddie on the Disney show of the same title. The blonde beauty certainly has the look to play Chenoweth’s daughter, and by the sound of the raw video below she has the voice to stop the beat:

Ariana Grande, Penny Pingleton

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande Robert Ascroft

Before she shot up to the top of the Billboards, recording star Ariana Grande was a Broadway kid. She understudied Allie Trimm in Jason Robert Brown’s 13. (Brown actually wrote the profile of Grande for Time magazine’s 2016 list of The 100 Most Influential People.) Grande absolutely has the belt to power Penny’s songs, just wait for those riffs on “Without Love.” But the glamorous diva is going to have to pull out all the acting stops to convince us that she’s the dorky Penny—we have faith.

Andrea Martin, Mrs. Pingleton

HR - Andrea Martin.jpg
Andrea Martin

The most recently announced addition to the cast is Pippin Tony winner Martin, and we could not be more excited. From her recently Tony-nominated performance in Broadway’s Noises Off to her laugh out loud Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, comedy and next-level absurdity is Martin’s bread and butter. Her dry humor as Frau Blucher in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (which earned her a Tony nomination) shows she is a master of timing and her Frieda Fishbein in Act One proves her strength as a scene partner. She is the perfect choice to play the comic archetype of a ’60s single mom mortified by integration and hell-bent on raising her daughter in a Puritan household.

Garrett Clayton, Link Larkin

Garrett Clayton
Garrett Clayton

Clayton is one of the lesser known names on this list, but much like his counterpart in the 2007 movie remake, Zac Efron, Clayton got his start with Disney. As the star of Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach Movie 2, Clayton proved himself a singing heartthrob for the tweens of America. The actor made a 180 when he then starred as Sean Lockhart opposite Christian Slater and James Franco in this year’s gay porn crime biopic King Cobra. Clayton now returns to his musical roots as Link Larkin, one of Corny Collins’ nicest kids in town, and the looker that captures Tracy’s heart.

Listen to Clayton on this duet:

Derek Hough, Corny Collins

Derek Hough
Derek Hough courtesy of ABC

The host of the Nicest Kids in Town, Corny (as his name suggests) needs to be a ball of charisma and charm. The camera certainly loves the Dancing with the Stars celeb, and he’s got the moves to back it up. We haven’t heard much in the way of his singing voice, but he’s already set to star as Don Lockwood (the Gene Kelly role) in the 2017 Broadway production of Singin’ in the Rain. In 2006, Hough played Ren in the West End’s Footloose and on the U.K. national tour. He most recently hit the New York stage in Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular. His little sis, Julianne Hough, played the lead in the live musical broadcast of Grease Live! on FOX. Maybe she has some tips for her bro on nailing a one-night-only event like this.

Famed for winning six championships on the reality show, Hough is known more for his dancing skills than anything else, but he has a musical side, too. (He even has some decent piano chops!)

We unearthed this old gem of the siblings singing together. It’s a little more country than Corny, but the guy can sing:

Sean Hayes, Mr. Pinky

Sean Hayes in <i>An Act of God</i>
Sean Hayes in An Act of God

Currently on Broadway in An Act of God at the Booth Theatre, Hayes will come down from his cloud to play the fashion maestro Mr. Pinky. It’s a bit part in the show—Mr. Pinky owns the premier store for plus size women and asks Tracy and Edna to be promoters of his fashion in “Welcome to the ’60s.” Hayes will no doubt make a big impact with his take on the featured role. As a former Tony host, Hayes know a thing or two about live television events. Plus, he starred in Broadway’s 2010 revival of Promises, Promises with Chenoweth. From what we know, the two don’t have any scenes together, but there’s nothing like cast camaraderie to add to the magic of a production.

Rosie O’Donnell, Gym teacher

Cats Opening Arrival 61 HR.jpg
Rosie O’Donnell Joseph Marzullo/WENN

When you get a name and a talent as big as O’Donnell to play a small role, you must be doing something right. O’Donnell hasn’t been seen on the Main Stem since she replaced Randy Graff as Golde in the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, playing opposite Harvey Fierstein, who replaced Alfred Molina. (It’s all in the family!) In the Broadway production, the gym teacher, prison matron and Mrs. Pingleton were all played by the same actress. In this version, we’ve already got two different actresses playing the gym teacher and Mrs. Pingleton. We’ll have to see what comes of the prison guard.

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