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‘Hairspray Live!’ pales in comparison to film

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Cover image for “Hairspray Live!”

“Hairspray Live!” aired on Dec. 7, 2016 on NBC and had high expectations to fill for viewers. The musical had many celebrities in the cast, including Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, Dove Cameron as Amber Von Tussle, Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle, Derek Hough as Corny Collins and more.

One would think these celebrities would fit the musical perfectly and bring it to life just as much as the 2007 movie cast did, but I don’t think they quite did it justice. I do take into consideration that the movie cast had as many takes to get things right as was required and they weren’t broadcasted on live television during their performance, but the character development in the movie seemed much more distinguished.

Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin was a mess in particular. His lines were rather monotone at times and didn’t portray the emotion they needed. His look didn’t quite suit the part for me and he just didn’t seem mentally into the part he was trying to portray. In fact, I would’ve preferred Darren Criss, the host of the event, to play the role of Link. Zac Efron played the part of Link in the movie so much better, because he had great character development and I genuinely believed every line he spoke and sang.

I had high hopes for Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, but my hopes were unfortunately crushed with her pitiful acting. Her singing was incredible as usual, but her acting was imitating her previous role as Cat from the Nickelodeon series “Sam and Cat” and “Victorious”. I actually thought that type of acting would work well for the character of Penny and Ariana would portray the role well, but it was a let-down.

On the bright side, Derek Hough as Corny Collins was absolutely amazing. I thought he sounded great, looked the part and really brought the character to life. I enjoyed his version of the song “Ladies Choice”, even though Link sang it in the film.

Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth portrayed the evil and judgmental Von Tussle mother-daughter-duo and they did so fairly well – they irked me as they were supposed to. Jennifer Hudson depicted Motormouth Maybelle well, and really had the sass and confidence the character needed.

The up-and-coming Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad was good, but not great. She’s new to the amount of pressure this role had on her, but she still sounded incredible and looked the part. However, I don’t think she quite had the spunk that Tracy had, nor the confidence. Her performance could’ve been really great, but to me it was just good. It does take a lot of courage and bravery to take on a beloved lead role as a newcomer.

Overall, the ensembles looked put-together and the voices in the show were powerhouses. The music didn’t disappoint in terms of vocals, but the acting didn’t have the flare it could’ve had. Nothing against the cast and production, they did well for a live performance, but things do go wrong in live performances. The movie set the standards so high that they were nearly impossible to fill. From now on, if I need my “Hairspray” fix, I’ll just watch the movie.

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About the Contributor
Samantha Johnson
Samantha Johnson, Fun Feature section editor
Samantha Johnson is a senior at Middletown High School. She has been in journalism two semester previous to this year. She has enjoyed her time in the class and hopes to take what she has learned into the rest of her life and career. Outside of school, Samantha is a singer-songwriter and she performs her music around the Frederick area. She writes, sings, produces, and records all of her music.

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‘Hairspray Live!’ pales in comparison to film