Hey friends! EK here weighing in with her thoughts on Hairspray Live!
First thought: Kristin. Chenoweth.
Second thought: Jail is a PARTY, apparently?!?!??!
Third: Everyone is killing it and it is so important that we continue to invite people into our theoretical musical theatre home, as so many are unable to make it to the Great White Way in person.
Fourth, and here is where I’m gonna get real: As much as I wish I could get behind everyone claiming this is some of the best and most influential musical theatre content NBC has ever put forth, I am unable to because, well, it actually isn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, everything we witnessed last night was critcal, as for some reason, in the year 2016, we still need to be reminded that segregation is an absolute, abhorrible problem (how are we still not getting this? Guys, it’s beyond time). Hairspray Live! is a step in the right direction, but NBC has been making these steps since 2012.
NBC’s Smash ran for two seasons. The plotline revolved around two actresses as they vied for the role of Marilyn Monroe in an up-and-coming musical. The cast included familiar names such as Katharine McPhee, Anjelica Houston, Jack Davenport and Debra Messing .It also featured Broadway powerhouses Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Will Chase, and the most recent Tony Award winner for Best Lead Actor in A Musical, Leslie Odom Jr. Broadway veterans Annaleigh Ashford, Harvery Fierstein, and Bernadette Peters (guys, BERNADETTE PETERS) had recurring features as well. I am ashamed and disheartened in admitting that the series only ran for two seasons. It truly is a genius representation of life in musical theatre. Many attribute its failure to the cast’s lack of Hollywood luster. This is devastating.
If you truly care about musical theatre and care about learning what it takes for a theatrical piece to secure a spot on Broadway (and believe me, it takes a lot) then Smash is something that is definitely worth your time. Am I yelling at you all for loving Hairspray Live!? Of course not, as I loved it, too, and my fangirl self just purchased the DVD from NBC’s website. What I am saying, though, is that we should tune in when the hype is not necessarily there. One live musical per year that is STACKED with popular celebrities is not cutting it. I would have watched had Kristin Chenoweth NOT been in it last night, but I am wondering how many could say the same if the show had not featured Garrett Clayton? Dove? Ariana? J Hud?
I guess my main question is: Why can’t Broadway actors and actresses raise just as much hype? They are incredibly talented and for them to be denied the chance to play iconic roles simply because the public has never heard of them seems very criminal.
This is why I applaud Smash. The casting decisions were stellar. Everyone fit so perfectly into their roles on the show. They gave the lesser known Broadway actors and actresses a fighting chance. From a business standpoint, was this a detrimental move? Probably. Hell, maybe that’s why it only lasted for two seasons. From a theatre lover’s standpoint, though, this was the most admirable thing NBC casting directors could have done. They gave Megan Hilty, an actress who had a phenomenal run as G(a)linda in Wicked, a run that spanned nearly six years, a chance to get her name out there. They cast Christian Borle long before his original portrayal of Nick Bottom in Something Rotten!. They cast Leslie Odom Jr. years before he would win Best Lead Actor in A Musical for Hamilton. They allowed these extraordinary talents to do what it is that they do better than most, on national television and I think that’s just the coolest thing. Maybe the public didn’t love it, but I sure did, and so did the thousand others like me who live for live theatre. It was truly like the theatre was being brought into my home. I was within their world as an active particpant. It felt like an authentic experience. It did not feel like a bunch of well-known people thrown into an auditorium while being told to belt for their lives. My hope is that future renditions of musicals might feature more and more of these “nameless” Broadway powerhouses.
Please do not misinterpret this as me being displeased with those starring in the live musical last night. As I’ve stated, they all did exceptionally well. We need more content like Hairspray Live! in our lives, absolutely, but we desperately need content like Smash in our lives that showcases the authentic nature of musical theatre and those who live within that intricate world. They deserve chances, too.
I’ll leave you all with what it is that you didn’t know you needed to see today. I, for one, definitely needed this trip to church today:
Today, we celebrate musical theatre. NBC produced a great little series in 2012, and they produced a great little show last night. Last night was a victory for musical theatre dorks and audiences across America. I am feeling very optimistic. As Smash‘s Ivy Lynn says, “There is nothing more important or special as live theater.”
What were your favorite parts of Hairspray Live! ? Were you all crying after Jennifer Hudson’s “I Know Where I’ve Been,” too? If you were one who DID tune into Smash, what were your favorite moments? Were you Team Ivy or Team Karen?
Happy (Early) Weekend everyone! Take a moment to breathe deeply, as this time of year can be overwhelming to say the least! Love to all! – EK ❤