Friday, December 9, 2016

Thoughts On Hairspray.

We gave up our cable TV a couple weeks ago. So far, it's going well. I miss NY1, but not too much -- I get most of my local news lately from neighborhood blogs I read every day.

I did feel pretty left out Thursday morning, though, reading everyone's responses on Facebook to the NBC live broadcast of Hairspray. It's just an ego thing, but I hate being late to these of-the-moment conversations, especially about art. It was available last night to stream online, so C and I watched it, and now I'll add my two cents to the day-old conversation, because you know I have to have an opinion on everything.

As everyone is saying, this is the best one yet. There was no where to go but up after that Sound of Music, but C and I both loved Christopher Walken's performance in Peter Pan, was that two years ago? The Wiz? I don't know, that show doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I will admit to a chip on my shoulder about adaptations of The Wizard of Oz in general.

So, Hairspray. I know you're not supposed to lead with the negative criticism, but there were a couple technical things that I'm sure colored my feelings about the production. One, I know they have to have commercials, but all those interstitial bits with Darren Criss were total mood-killers. Still, if that's what it takes to get live musical theater on TV, then I'll go along with it.

But the sound? I hesitate to make this criticism because I know I'm old and losing my hearing, and to be honest I have this problem almost always when I see musical theater that has electric bass and drums, I just can't hear the vocals very well and miss most of the lyrics in big loud songs. But C was having the same problem, so I wonder if it was a sound mix issue. The vocals seemed often completely buried, until Jennifer Hudson sang. But, on the other hand, not a single review I read the next day mentioned it, so maybe I'm crazy.

But Jennifer Hudson. C and I were sitting there grousing a bit during one of those interminable breaks (you can't fast-forward when you stream from NBC), and then she started singing I Know Where I've Been and our attention locked onto the screen. Good god almighty, that's how you deliver an 11 o'clock number. I forgot every negative thought I had had up to that point and to the end of the show I was completely hooked, completely sold. By the time they got to You Can't Stop the Beat, I was nearly in tears from the exuberance, that choreography, the absolute simple rightness of the message.

Things I loved:

1) The dancing. The show is about dancing, and this production delivered. One of my greatest pleasures in life is watching Broadway chorus kids do their thing. I'm in awe every time.

2) Kristin Chenoweth: she is insane, right? I don't mean insanely talented (which of course she is) but like just insane.

3) I loved the set, too, with all the tributes to John Waters' Baltimore.

4) And Harvey Fierstein is an absolute hero of our time. We should wake up every day and say, "Thank you, Harvey Fierstein."

The show kind of works no matter where you come to it from, but to a John Waters fan it's remarkable how very different the musical is from the original film yet retains in such pure form what's great about it. If Waters reveled in all that trash ("The rats on the street all dance round my feet") to be provocative, it was to provoke people into realizing that there's beauty there, and love, and innocence, and strength, and humor, and that the real trash is in the hearts of mean, narrow-minded, prejudiced people.

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