I finally tuned into the NBC annual live musical for 2016, Hairspray. I was teaching on the night of the actual broadcast (December 7th), but managed to DVR it and watch it on the eve of Christmas Eve. I will first say that I’ve seen Hairspray on Broadway three times as well as watched the original (non-musical) movie and the 2007 musical movie. I love the show for so many reasons: the amazing score and orchestrations, the pertinent social and historical themes, the high energy dancing! In any form, I always want to jump out of my seat to sing and dance along, which you can easily do in your living room wearing pajamas and slippers.
One notable thing about this live broadcast was their casting decision for Tracy Turnblad. Maddie Baillio was discovered at an open casting call in New York City that was attended by over 1,000 hopeful musical theatre performers.”You gotta think big to be big” is Wilbur’s line in Hairspray, but it is a testament to all Broadway hopefuls that get up at the crack of dawn, grab their audition book and heels, and head to midtown to audition for their next show. Maddie was joined by already established Broadway and film actors as well as pop stars and Disney sensations.
One huge shout out to Jennifer Hudson who was brilliant (as always) and owned the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Darren Criss served as a host for the event and I thought having this element was unnecessary and interrupted the storyline.
NBC’s live musicals are getting stronger every year and I always await the announcement of their next one (Bye Bye Birdie with Jennifer Lopez has been reported as the December 2017 show). It all started with The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood then Peter Pan then The Wiz and now Hairspray. Fox also jumped on the bandwagon with Grease last January. As a musical theatre performer and teacher, this is awesome news! I love making all of these musicals accessible to people across the globe and to have my students watch and learn from these performances (did they notice any diction issues? stamina? breath? tone quality?).
If you haven’t seen this broadcast, find it on demand or buy the DVD and watch it. It’s certainly a fun night at home and you might learn a little something to help in your own musical theatre training!
Audiences love Disney on Broadway and these shows can be seen in touring, regional, community, and school theaters across the country. The Lion King has been running for almost 19 years! The first Disney musical that I saw was Beauty and the Beast and I fell in love with the music and magical components of that show. My personal favorites are the numbers that were added to the production and not part of the original movie like “Home”. This is true for me with a lot of Disney musicals. I adore “Positoovity” from The Little Mermaid, “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins, and “Proud of Your Boy” from Aladdin.
In 2010, I was invited to serve as the educational director at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s summer camp. In addition to spending the summer in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, I had the opportunity to direct almost 100 kids in a production of Aladdin Kids! I had three separate casts (approx. 33 actors in each cast) that had to learn the music, choreography, and blocking for this show. I already knew the music very well from the movie (which I saw as a child at the movie theater) and subsequently the vocal selections that I brought in to learn with my piano and voice teacher. We performed in an open amphitheater overlooking the water and this space gave me a lot of artistic freedom for audience interaction and creating the world of Aladdin.
Aladdin is an awesome show that has creative ways to incorporate a large ensemble and showcase students’ individual talents as well as build a cohesive cast. If I had a gymnast, I had a spot to feature him or her in “Friend Like Me”. Same thing with a breakdancer, beatboxer, belly dancer, fire breather… I love honing my students’ theatre technique while finding ways for them to share their special skills with the cast and audiences.
Aladdin is currently on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street. This is the same theatre where The Lion King started before moving to the Minskoff Theatre and making room for Mary Poppins to open. I wonder what new Disney musical will make its’ way into this theatre next…
Do you have a favorite Disney musical? Please comment and share!