Harvey Fierstein returns to 'Hairspray,' this time on live TV
Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein won one of his several Tonys for his performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. Now, he's reprising the role for NBC's live version of the musical, which airs December 7. He tells us about the weighty task of transforming into Edna and changes he made to the script when adapting it for television.
Broadway playwright and star Harvey Fierstein is reprising his Tony-winning performance as big mama Edna Turnblad for NBC's upcoming live production of Hairspray. Fierstein also wrote the teleplay. We visit the set, where Fierstein tells us about the heavy process of transforming himself into Edna, and about some of the changes he made to take the script from broadway to live TV. And on the news banter, we discuss how a Hollywood money man went from big losses in Relativity Media to a cabinet appointment in the Trump administration.
Photo: Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad with the cast of NBC's Hairspray Live! Trae Patton/NBC
In a corner of the NBC backlot in Universal City, a generic city street set has been transformed into 1960's Baltimore for the upcoming production of Hairspray Live!, which airs on December 7.
Signs on the shops -- 'Divine Pet Food' and 'Greenblatt's Baltimore Crabs'-- are nods to the industry, the former to the iconic Divine who played Edna Turnblad in the 1988 John Waters' movie Hairspray, and of course Bob Greenblatt is the chairman of NBC Entertainment.
Hairspray tells the story of Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad, played in NBC's production by newcomer Maddie Baillio. Tracy been told she's too fat to realize her dream of dancing on the Corny Collins TV show. Her quest to perform turns into a crusade against segregation.
The cast of this lavish NBC production includes Ariana Grande, Martin Short, Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Hudson. The director is Tony-winner Kenny Leon.
And playing Tracy's mother Edna is Harvey Fierstein, who won a Tony for performing the role on Broadway. Fierstein has also won Tonys for his play, Torch Song Trilogy, and for writing the book for the stage version of La Cage Aux Folles. He's also written the script for the live TV version of Hairspray.
Before going to work on Hairspray, Fierstein also wrote the teleplay for NBC's live musical version of The Wiz. He's shares his observations about how these productions are evolving as the form has enjoyed a recent a renaissance. Plus, he takes us through the weighty costuming process of transforming into Edna.
And while Hairspray may sing 'Welcome to the 60s' -- the song they were rehearsing the day we visited the set -- its themes of fighting bigotry still feel very relevant today. We talked to to Fierstein in his trailer, just a few days after this year's presidential election, which had left many in Hollywood very upset. He tells us how the cast and crew were feeling, and why they feel the anti-segregation story line of the show is now more important than ever.