Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, multiple Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, Tony and Emmy Award winner Martin Short and Emmy Award winner Derek Hough are to headline the cast of NBC’s HAIRSPRAY LIVE!, the network’s next live Broadway musical holiday event following the phenomenal success of The Wiz Live!
Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment spoke of the four leads. “We are beyond thrilled with these incredibly talented stars for HAIRSPRAY LIVE!. Harvey Fierstein created the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway in an indelible Tony winning performance that demanded to be memorialised on film, and we’re happy he wanted to step into her shows one last, unforgettable time. 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. We are very happy to have the inimitable Martin Short to play Edna’s loving husband, Wilbur. We welcome Marty to the network in May in his new variety show with Maya Rudolph 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.”
Also joining the creative team will be acclaimed television director Alex Rudzinski, who received extraordinary reviews for his television direction of Grease Live! Rudzinski was also the TV director for Dancing With the Stars from 2005-14.
Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, HAIRSPRAY LIVE! takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”
Harvey Fierstein, who is also writing the teleplay, will play Edna Turnblad, a role he created and won a Tony Award for in the stage version of Hairspray. The quintessential Edna, Fierstein portrayed the character for the show’s first two years of its seven-year run at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway.
As an actor, he is a member of an elite group who have won Tonys as Best Actor in a Musical (Hairspray) and Best Actor in a Play (for his own Torch Song Trilogy). As a writer, Fierstein won Tonys for La Cage Aux Folles and Torch Song Trilogy, and received three more Tony nominations for writing Kinky Boots, Newsies and Casa Valentina. His adaptation of Funny Girl is currently running, along with Kinky Boots, in London.
Hudson, who will play Motormouth Maybelle, is currently completing a triumphant run in the acclaimed revival of The Color Purple – performing the role of Shug Avery in her Broadway debut. She won an Oscar and Golden Globe in 2007 for her iconic performance as Effie White in the hit film Dreamgirls. Her sensational rendition of the song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was greeted with instant acclaim by film critics and moviegoers alike and made Hudson the person to beat as best supporting actress for the Academy Awards.
Hudson’s incredible vocal talents were first recognized with her appearance on the third season of American Idol in 2004, where she impressed both the show’s judges and a national TV audience. Soon after, she released her first album, Jennifer Hudson, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Chart and sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. through the first six weeks. The album was nominated for four Grammys and won for best R&B album.
Hudson continued on the bigscreen following Dreamgirls and has since co-starred in such films as Sex and the City, The Secret Life of Bees and Spike Lee’s latest film, Chi-Raq. Her TV credits include NBC’s Smash, Fox’s Empire and HBO’s newest telepic, Confirmation.
HAIRSPRAY LIVE! reunites Hudson with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with her previously on NBC’s Smash and the 85th and 87th Oscar telecasts, which they also produced.
Martin Short, a celebrated comedian and actor, has won fans and accolades in television, film and theatre since his breakout season on Saturday Night Live more than 30 years ago.
His popularity and exposure on SNL led Short to cross over quickly into feature films. He made his debut in Three Amigos and followed with Interspace, Three Fugitives and Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks. An accomplished stage actor, Short won a Tony, Theatre World Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for his role in the revival of Little Me. He was also nominated for a Tony and took home an Outer Critics Circle Award for the musical version of Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl. Short co-wrote and starred in Fame Becomes Me, prompting The New York Times to describe Short as “a natural for live musical, a limber singer and dancer who exudes a fiery energy that makes you want to reach for your sunglasses.” Short most recently appeared on Broadway in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only A Play.
A two-time primetime Emmy winner and multi-nominated for both primetime and daytime Emmys, Short returned to television in 1998 for the miniseries Merlin and host of The Martin Short Show. In 2001 he launched the popular comedy Primetime Glick and in 2010 received critical acclaim for his role in FX’s drama series Damages.
Two-time Emmy winner Derek Hough is portraying Corny Collins. Hough won a pair of Emmys for choreography for the ABC series Dancing With the Stars. He appeared on the show for 16 seasons and won six times with six different dance partners, including Brooke Burke, Jennifer Grey and Amber Riley.
Hough hit the boards on London’s West End in the 2006 original cast production of Footloose. He then made his Broadway debut in 2010 in the stage show Burn The Floor and was recently announced as the lead actor in a 2017 Broadway revival of Singin’ in the Rain. Hough also has a recurring role in the ABC drama Nashville.
Television director Alex Rudzinski will join stage director Kenny Leon (The Wiz Live!). Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the upcoming A Few Good Men Live!) serve as executive producers of HAIRSPRAY LIVE! Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, On Your Feet) will serve as choreographer for the live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Smash and Broadway’s upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
HAIRSPRAY LIVE! is produced by Universal Television