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Theatre / Hairspray

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"I was lost 'til I heard the drums, then I found my way
'Cause you can't stop the beat!"

"Good morning Baltimore
And some day when I take to the floor
The world's gonna wake up and see
Baltimore and me!"
Tracy, "Good Morning Baltimore"

The 2002 musical adaptation of the 1988 comedy film. The original film was for the most part not a musical per se, just full of music, and its songs were all Dance Sensation songs of one sort or another. The musical had songs tell the story more directly.

The storyline is similar to the original, with some changes (for example, Velma Von Tussle has a larger role). Overweight teenager Tracy Turnblad and her best friend Penny want to audition for The Nicest Kids in Town. Though Tracy's mother Edna disagrees, her father Wilbur is supportive, and so Tracy goes to audition and meets Link Larkin, one of the show's heartthrobs. Producer Velma Von Tussle rejects her for her weight, but a run-in with a black dancer, Seaweed J. Stubbs, starts a chain of events that transforms the show.

The musical premiered in Seattle before making the move to Broadway later in 2002. It introduced the world to Marissa Jaret Winokur (who previously was more known as the fast-food girl with Kevin Spacey in American Beauty).

It got a film adaptation in 2007, introducing Nikki Blonsky as Tracy and co-starring John Travolta (as Edna) and Zac Efron (as Link).

NBC also aired a live version in 2016, starring Maddie Baillio as Tracy, Harvey Fierstein (Broadway's original Edna) reprising his role (and writing the teleplay), Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron as the Von Tussles, Ariana Grande as Penny, Garrett Clayton as Link, Ephraim Sykes as Seaweed, and David Hough as Corny Collins.

Not to be confused with Hair.

Tropes in the stage version:

  • Adaptational Dye-Job: Originally a blonde in the 1988 film, Penny becomes a redhead for the stage musical. In the second film, her hair is dirty blonde bordering on light brown, and the 2016 telecast, she's a brunette.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Wilbur interrupts the program to suspiciously wheel in a giant can of hairspray, which Velma suspects is a Trojan Horse to sneak Tracy into the show, and she has it kept shut. Turns out, Tracy shows up by walking into the studio, and Edna was in the can for her television debut. This doesn't occur in the 2007 movie.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Edna warns Tracy this after discussing her failed dreams to design fashion, and become "the biggest thing in brassieres".
  • Broken Smile: Velma Von Tussle displays a perfect example when the show is finally integrated in the play. In the second movie, she stays pissy throughout, probably due to losing her job.
  • Cavalier Competitor: Amber after losing; quickly in the 2007 film, gradually as "You Can't Stop The Beat" goes on in the musical. Also counts as Graceful Loser.
  • Climactic Music: "You Can't Stop the Beat", the climactic number that coincides with the climactic dance showdown.
  • Curtain Call: The play and the telecast both have one. This marks NBC's first time ending a live musical with a curtain call.
  • Dark Reprise: In the Broadway musical, Tracy sings a reprise of "Good Morning Baltimore" after she finds out she won't be granted any bail. And while "Miss Baltimore Crabs" was already dark, "Velma's Revenge" is much darker.
  • Graceful Loser: In the second movie, Amber was surprisingly mature about her defeat, indicating Character Development. She and her mother both become graceful losers in the stage show as well, after much sulking, they give in and realize that they "can't stop the beat". See Heel–Face Turn in the first folder.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: "(You're) Timeless to Me", especially on Broadway where the actors playing Edna and Wilbur seemed to be in a contest over who will corpse first.
  • Hidden Track: The Original Broadway Cast Recording follows up "You Can't Stop the Beat" with a few seconds of silence, then another song titled, "Blood on the Pavement", in which Link, Amber, and Velma use Lyrical Dissonance to warn against drunk driving.
  • Historical In-Joke: When Penny rushes to show the Turnblads Tracy's TV debut, Edna misunderstands and thinks she's trying to show them the footage of John Glenn's space trip. She chastises her, saying "Oh, I've seen it! It's all some studio out in Hollywood. Do they really expect me to believe he's up there?" In the stage version, it's "Oh no, don't tell me Khrushchev has his shoes off again!"
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Link Larkin: I shoulda been there, beside her. I can't sleep. I can't eat...
    Edna Turnblad: You can't eat? Well, come on in and worry with us. I'll make you some pork.
    • Or, in the stage version,
    Link: I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't even concentrate!
    Tracy: You couldn't eat?
  • Popular Is Dumb: The openly embraced creed of the Nicest Kids in Town:
    Who cares about sleep, when you can snooze in school?
    they'll never get to college but they sure look cool!
    Don't need a cap or a gown
    When you're the Nicest Kids in Town!
  • Sextra Credit: Played for Laughs in some performances, where, after the dodgeball scene, the gym coach (usually a Dirty Old Man if not a Butch Lesbian) asks the girls to follow the coach into the showers for some "extra credit". Velma also makes reference to the competitive variation in "Miss Baltimore Crabs".
    Velma: Those poor runners up might still hold some grudges/they padded their cups, but I screwed the judges!
  • Shout-Out: The stage musical contains a few references to Gypsy. In the beginning, these references were quite timely, as Hairspray premiered on Broadway in the same season as a revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. By the time Hairspray closed, these references would again become timely, as a new revival starring Patti LuPone had just started its run.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Dancer Brenda must take time off from Corny's show, thus prompting the audition. How long will she be gone? "Just nine months..."
  • Small Start, Big Finish: "I Know Where I've Been" stands out from the rest of the upbeat soundtrack by being a slow-building power ballad about racism. Maybelle begins singing to Tracy, but as the march she's in progresses it morphs into a loud and powerful Crowd Song as she's backed up by the other protesters.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the stage show, when Tracy makes her grand entrance to the "Miss Hairspray" competition, Corny has a lovely throwaway line: "I had nothing to do with this complex conspiracy!" What complex conspiracy is that, Corny?
  • Teen Pregnancy: The reason The Corny Collins Show needs a new dancer in the first place.
    Corny: And speaking of the unexpected, our own fun-loving, freewheeling Brenda will be taking a leave of absence from the show. How long will you be gone, Brenda?
    Brenda: (giant smile unwavering) Just nine months.
    Corny: ...So, it seems we have an opening for a girl who's just as fun-loving, but maybe not quite as freewheeling.
  • "They've Come So Far" Song:
    • "I Know Where I've Been," which is about the continuing fight against prejudice as much as it is about the progress of the characters and plot.
    • And another song called "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)" was written for the 2007 film adaptation. However, unlike "I Know Where I've Been," it lacks the narrative significance typically associated with this trope, as it is played over the credits rather than as part of the film. (Some productions of the play, including NBC's telecast, have the cast sing it during the curtain call.)
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Tracy and Edna could be pretty surly and offputting on several occasions in the original film (Edna in particular due to being played by Divine, the inspiration for Ursula, and it shows), but are very nice people in the musical.
  • Villain Song: In addition to Velma's "Miss Baltimore Crabs" above, Amber gets "Cooties" or "New Girl in Town". The other members of the Corny Collins Show council contribute to all of these, as well.

Tropes in the 2016 live version: