Harvey Fierstein on NBC's 'Hairspray Live'

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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.




Kim Masters


Kaitlin Parker