Tag Archives: NBC Musical

Hairspray Live ! (A Quick Review.)

I’m a little late to the party, but you didn’t think I’d forget about the Live! Musical review did you?

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NBC has done it again, now with it’s 4th musical, “Hairspray Live!” a musical that oddly mirrors the current political climate in America.

The musical follows Tracy, a heavyset teenager hoping to become a cast member on a dancing television show, in 1962. Along with her ditsy friend Penny, Tracy makes it her mission to allow the African-American cast members to dance on the show everyday, not just their scheduled once a month.

So, here are my thoughts:

The Good:

Maddie Baillio as Tracy

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NBC realized very quickly that a bankable star might not always be the best way to go, if they can’t sing, dance AND Act. Maddie is an unknown, having won the role at an open casting call, beating nearly 1,000 others. The young woman is beautiful, can sing amazingly well and she makes Tracy her own. I believe she has a bright future ahead of her.

Kristen Chenoweth and Derek Hough

Hairspray Live! - Season 2016

Chenoweth is fabulous in almost everything she does, but she was especially wonderful in the role of Velma, a television producer hellbent on keeping television as white as possible. She had the right amount of silliness without making the character melodramatic.

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Hough, I knew was a dancer, but holy moly, the guy can sing. That was a wonderful surprise.  I had seen some online chatter that he “wasn’t living up to” James Mardsen, whom plays the role in the film. I felt he played Corny Collins just fine.  It is funny that his sister, Julianne, played Sandy in Grease Live!

Multiple Stages

NBC took notes from FOX and this time, the production was not restricted to one stage. Instead, actors had room to breathe and the camera work mostly was a welcoming change from the previous musicals. I saw a few reviews mention this as a negative, which I certainly do not agree with. Using a studio lot is the way to go.

The Just-Okay :

Garret Clayton as Link

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Apparently Clayton rose to fame as a Disney star, in one of their original movies. I hadn’t heard of him before. Clayton is not a bad performer, but something was off.  I believe he never got the note to ‘rein it in’ when it came to his acting, which caused his performance  to came across as very melodramatic, as though he was an actor  in a high school musical. (Pun not intended.)

The Bad:

Ariana Grande as Penny

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While Grande was “passable” with her acting of the ditsy best friend, whenever she sang, it was apparent she thought she was performing one of her concerts. The character of Penny would disappear and Grande the Pop Star appeared! Her breathy, barely audible singing totally took away from the production.

The Host/Viewing Parties 

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While NBC intelligently took cues from Grease Live about multiple stages, they  unfortunately decided a host was needed as well.  The Host is an element in the live musical that needs to be done away with. It makes sense to have one, but all a host does is bring attention to the fact we’re watching a show and it takes you out of the performance.  Musicals don’t stop for a host on Broadway, so they shouldn’t stop for one on television either.

Final Thoughts:

The NBC Musical and other variants is a wonderful thing to see happen. I hope the live musical continues throughout the years to come.  I did enjoy ‘Hairspray Live’ overall and I’m excited for the next one.

*Character Images are property of NBC and were taken by Brian Bowen Smith.

*Party Image taken from City TV Live Broadcast.

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The Wiz, Live! (a Quick Review.)

For the third time, NBC has brought a musical into our homes, LIVE. And like Dorothy’s three clicks of her heels, the third time has seemed to be the charm, as The Wiz, Live! Was a triumph, to say the least.

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Right away, the giant LED screens provide an elegant, yet drab background of the Kansas farm. You know you’re in for a fun ride, once we arrive to Oz.

The book (the script) is new here, with Dorothy struggling with wanting to go “back home” to Omaha. She doesn’t like her new school and thinks Aunt Em works her to the bone. Aunt Em loves her anyway, and tries to tell Dorothy home is not a place, but where you are loved. Dorothy’s parents are gone, but Em does the best she can. And before we know it, a Tornado whips up Dorothy and her house and, you know the rest!

Here’s my quick review:

  • Amber Riley was just perfect as the bubbly Addaperle, whom welcomes Dorothy to Oz. Props to the costumers who put her in blue, this is a nod to the original Oz book.

 

  • Wow, the Scarecrow (played by Elijah Kelley) was funny here. I loved how he was trying to rush Dorothy along once they met Tin Man. And, let’s give praise to Elijah’s singing as well as that great back flip he landed!

 

  • Shanice Williams was a fabulous Dorothy. The new book gave Dorothy some spunk. Her line to the crows, “I already killed a witch this morning, and I wasn’t even mad at her!” was great and she delivered it well.  Also, this is almost silly to say, but come on, we know her singing was OFF THE CHARTS. Man, that version of “Home” was just beautiful. Judy Garland has some competition there.

 

  • I hate to bunch them together, not because they weren’t fantastic on their own, but I loved the Tin Man and Lion. Ne-Yo had a distinct accent and fantastic movement. David Alan Grier made the Lion his own and his comedy shined through.

 

  • One of the most chilling moments in this show was new— when Dorothy is trying to find the yellow brick road, and her dead mother calls out to her. Her mother is trapped in a tree, and to get her down, the mother advises Dorothy to give her the magic silver shoes. Of course, we find out “mother” is really a creature of the forest, trying to trap Dorothy, who is saved by the Tin Man. This was just a brilliant moment and I can see it being used in other productions.

 

  • The Emerald City being set up as a nightclub was interesting. I loved the dancing once we got inside. Just wonderful.

 

  • Queen Latifah. What can I say? Having a female Wizard works here, and she was just great all around. Although, I didn’t like how it is she, and not Dorothy, that help the three friends realize they have brains, a heart, and courage. Dorothy needs to always be the one to tell her friends they’ve had what they sought after. The Wiz is a fake, how does she know?

 

  • Mary J Blige had me worried in press footage. She didn’t seem evil, at all. But, I was happy to see she was screeching and stomping, in brilliant fashion. Not just a singer saying lines, she was acting. Her melting was great, and the purist in me loves they actually threw water on her, and not Glitter.

Now, onto some negatives:

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  • Uzo Aduba was alright. She came across as “the wicked’s glinda”, you know, kind of flighty, silly. And look, I know singing is tough, but she was flat here and there. But, what was very off putting was her hair. Now, here me out. In press footage, Glinda had blond curly hair, to go with her her gold dress. But, Uzo came out in what I think was her actual hair, with little gold jewels in it. It’s not that it looked “bad”. But I’m wondering if getting her in that dress was taking to long and they scrapped the wig. Her look definitely seemed unfinished.

The Wiz Live! - Season 2015

  • Toto. Oh, man, Toto. Where was he? NOWHERE. He came and barked at the farm hands and seemingly missed the tornado. I absolutely hate a production that ignores Toto. And The Wiz, Live! Took it to a new level. He didn’t even go to Oz. Well, that’s a new one.

 

  • Lastly, after Dorothy sang ‘Home’ and returned home, we literally saw her in Kansas for 5 seconds. The production still had twenty minutes left. We needed a ‘moment.’ Aunt Em rushed to hug Dorothy and Toto, who we hadn’t seen in three hours, jumped in Dorothy’s  arms and… that was it.

Overall, this production was magical. This certainly was the best of the three and it being about Oz was a treat for me, since that’s one of my favorite things. (See what I did there?)

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