If somehow you thought it impossible for Hairspray to continue its qualitative infinite regress as it reiterates itself across media, NBC has ensured that the musical continues its never-ending trajectory of volleying remakes.Beginning as a John Waters movie, then adapted into a musical, then (like the Producers) adapted back into a film based on the show, it seemed there was little else that could be done with Hairspray. But now, in an odd spin, the musical will see another iteration in which it’s simultaneously a live and onscreen performance — for it’s been selected as NBC’s next live musical, à la The Wiz, Peter Pan and the Sound of Music before it.
The musical, executive produced (like the other NBC musicals) by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, will air in December 2016. (Though according to The Hollywood Reporter, the deals aren’t officially closed.) It takes place in 1962 and follows Baltimore high-schooler Tracy Turnblad, a mega-fan of the local teenage dance television program, The Corny Collins Show, which rejects her when she auditions — due to her weight and her support of integration. Meanwhile, black teenagers are only allowed on the show on a specific “Negro day.” Eventually, Tracy and a group of friends (which includes Seaweed, a talented black dancer and his mother Maybelle, as well as Tracy’s mother, first played by Divine, then Harvey Fierstein, then John Travolta) begin to protest the program’s racist policies, which are of course microcosmically reflective the times.
Both Meron and Zadan, as it happens, were producers of the (2007) Hairspray film, in which John Travolta played Tracy’s mom. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt allegedly said he’d be interested in having Travolta reprise his role. However, according to Variety, Greenblatt also said that the power of and positive responses to newcomer Shanice Williams’ performance in The Wiz Live have led them to want to cast another unknown as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray.