Sean Hayes will play the role of dress shop owner Mr. Pinky in NBC’s holiday presentation of Hairspray Live! and Rosie O’Donnell will play the gym teacher in the live adaptation of the 1960’s-set musical, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan announced during the special’s TCA panel ending NBC’s portion of the convention.
Introducing the Q&A, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt noted the cast includes a “slew” of Tony, Emmy and Oscar winners, including Harvey Fierstein who Greenblatt said he was “thrilled” to have back, reprising his role as Edna Turnblad, who runs a laundry business out of her home. Martin Short will play Edna’s husband.
The Baltimore-set musical, based on John Waters’ ’88 movie, follows Edna’s young daughter Tracy, who desperately wants to dance on a local TV show and unwittingly becomes an advocate for inclusion and diversity. Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth and Derek Hough also star, as does Ariana Grande, who told TV critics being a pop star is nice but her first love is Broadway.
During the Q&A, there was some discussion about this being the right play at the right time in this country. Asked how it was being “updated” for 2016, Fierstein responded, “You don’t update history. You tell it and are as true to it as can be. You can change laws, but the war is to change hearts and nothing does that like a song does. Music brings us together in a way that words don’t…That’s our aim and we are each in this together to do that.”
But the production, which will be staged on the Universal backlot in Burbank, will air in December, after the presidential election.
At the January TCA, Greenblatt announced Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the executive producers behind NBC’s live musical franchise, would return for Hairspray Live! Zadan and Meron produced the 2007 Hairspray movie. This will be NBC’s fourth consecutive live musical, following The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and The Wiz.