Hairspray Live’: NBC Casts Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Martin Short For Holiday Production

Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Short
Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Short. (NBC)
Though Hairspray Live will not be shown on NBC TV until December, the network is busy getting a good head start on the production. Last Sunday, a huge flock of Tracy Turnblad hopefuls showed up for the open casting call in hopes that their performance of “Good Morning Baltimore” would be good enough to land the role of Hairspray’s main character. 

Actresses applying for the role were told ahead of time that the casting directors were looking for females over the age of 18. “She must be heavyset, be outgoing, unstoppable, good-hearted with a vibrant, loveable, high-spirited personality who loves to dance. A strong pop belt singer and great mover who can become a teen heroine,” said the press release. Unlike the rest of the cast of Hairspray, whoever NBC finally decides who should play the role, she may be the only “unknown” artist attached to the show. 

Hairspray Live auditions
Open Casting Call for Tracy Turnblad in New York City on Sunday, April 24 (NBC)

This past week, NBC has announced that Dancing with the Stars alum, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Short have all joined the production of Hairspray Live. Hough will be playing the role of Corny Collins, the host of Baltimore’s local music TV show that Tracy Turnblad dreams of appearing on someday. Joining him will be Martin Short who has been cast as Tracy’s dad, Wilbur and Jennifer Hudson will become Motormouth Maybelle, the African-American host on Corny Collin’s “Negro Day” broadcasts.

One of the biggest questions regarding Hairspray Live is “Who will be playing the role of Edna, Tracy’s mother?” Having a man play the role has been a tradition since John Water’s original 1988 non-musical version of Hairspray when famous transvestite, Divine, took on the role. Harvey Fierstein first created the character of Edna in the original Broadway production. Fierstein played the role for the show’s first two years. Now, he’s back in high heels and writing new material for the new live production.

“We are very happy to have the inimitable Martin Short to play Edna’s loving husband, Wilbur,” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “We welcome Marty to the network in May in his new variety show with Maya Rudolph (Marty & Maya) and we think he will be the perfect long-term companion to Harvey’s Edna. And hands-down the best dancer on television and one of the best in the entertainment business, Derek Hough, will be perfect in the role of Corny Collins, the cocky song-and-dance-man who hosts the TV show every teenager in Baltimore wants to be on. We’re also so grateful that the incomparable Jennifer Hudson will play Motormouth Maybelle and we know her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will literally stop the show.”

In addition to his work on Dancing With The Stars, Hough performed in London’s West End production of Footloose in 2006, made his Broadway debut in Burn the Floor in 2010 and will return next year in a revival of Singin' in the Rain. Short has appeared recently on Broadway for It’s Only a Play and Hudson is currently completing her Broadway debut in The Color Purple.

Hairspray Live will once again be led by executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who both served on each of NBC’s other “Live” productions of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and The Wiz. Joining the creative team for Hairspray Live is director Alex Rudzinkski who directed Dancing With the Stars from 2005-2014 and went on to direct the phenomenal FOX production of Grease Live earlier this year.

Hairspray is a feel-good production that faces issues of racism and bullying head on, but unlike NBC’s earlier holiday shows, Hairspray features some content that isn’t as family-friendly.

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