According to interviews included as an extra feature on the 2007 film's DVD release, theatre producer Margo Lion first conceived of Hairspray as a stage musical in 1998 after seeing a television broadcast of the original film. She contacted John Waters, who gave her his blessing, then acquired the rights from New Line Cinema. Lion contacted Marc Shaiman, who expressed interest in the project only if his partner Scott Wittman could be included, and Lion agreed. The two submitted three songs – one of which, "Good Morning Baltimore," eventually became the show's opening number. Based on their initial work, Lion was confident that she had hired the right team.
Lion contacted Rob Marshall about directing the musical. At the time he was involved in negotiations to direct the screen adaptation of Chicago, but he agreed to become involved in the early development stages of Hairspray with the stipulation he would drop out if assigned the film. Marshall remembered Marissa Jaret Winokur from her brief appearance in the film American Beauty and arranged a meeting with Shaiman and Wittman. The two immediately felt she was right for the role of Tracy Turnblad but were hesitant to commit without seeing any other auditions. They hired Winokur to work with them on the project with the understanding she might be replaced later. One year later, Winokur was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Certain she would lose the role if the creative team learned about her condition, she underwent chemotherapy and a hysterectomy without telling anyone but her immediate family. The treatment and surgery were successful, and Winokur returned to the project. Meanwhile, Marshall had started work on Chicago, and Jack O'Brien and Jerry Mitchell were hired by Lion to direct and choreograph, respectively. Winokur was told she would need to audition along with hundreds of other women, but when the two men met her, they agreed she was right for the role.
Tracy's mother had been portrayed by Divine in the original film, and Shaiman liked the idea of maintaining the tradition of casting a male as Edna Turnblad. He suggested Harvey Fierstein based primarily on Fierstein's distinctive sounding voice, and O'Brien agreed.
According to Shaiman, one song, "I Know Where I've Been", became controversial during the genesis of the score:
“This was... inspired by a scene late in the  movie that takes place on the black side of town. It never dawned on us that a torrent of protest would follow us from almost everyone involved with the show. ‘It’s too sad.... It’s too preachy.... It doesn’t belong.... Tracy should sing the eleven o’clock number.’ We simply didn’t want our show to be yet another show-biz version of a civil rights story where the black characters are just background. And what could be more Tracy Turnblad-like than to give the ‘eleven o’clock number’ to the black family at the heart of the struggle? Luckily... the audiences embraced this moment, which enriches the happy ending to follow, and it is our proudest achievement of the entire experience of writing Hairspray”
Original Broadway Production
After a tryout at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, Hairspray opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on August 15, 2002. The production was directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with set design by David Rockwell, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, and the many distinctive wigs in the show by Paul Huntley. The original Broadway cast included Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein in the the lead roles of Tracy and Edna respectively. The cast also featured Laura Bell Bundy, Kerry Butler, Linda Hart, and Dick Latessa.
At the 2003 Tony Awards, Hairspray received nominations in 12 categories, winning 8 for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Best Direction. Marissa Janet Winokur, Harvey Fierstein and Dick Latessa also received awards for their performances.
The production ran for more than six years and 2642 performances, closing on January 4, 2009. Original star Fierstein returned to the cast on November 11, 2008 and Winokur returned on December 9 for the final performances.
Other U.S. productions
The First U.S. national tour started in September 2003 in Baltimore and ended in June 2006. The touring production starred Carly Jibson as Tracy, Bruce Vilanch as Edna, Terrell Brooks as Seaweed, Sandra DeNise as Penny, Susan Cella as Velma, and Ramona Cole as Motormouth Maybelle (although Charlotte Crossley is best known for the national tour, Charlotte replaced Ramona). When the tour stopped in Los Angeles, Marissa Jaret Winokur reprised her role as Tracy, together with the original Broadway Link, Matthew Morrison. A second tour began January 6, 2009, two days after Hairspray closed on Broadway.
In July 2006, a non-Equity U.S. tour opened in Atlantic City's Harrah's Casino. The shorter "casino version" was used for this stop of the tour, but when it moved on, it continued with the full version of the show minus the character of Lorraine. The tour was scheduled to continue at least through April 2009. A summer engagement in the Far East will follow.
A Las Vegas production ran at the Luxor Hotel in 2006 starring Katrina Rose Dideriksen as Tracy, Austin Miller as Link, and Fierstein and Latessa reprising their roles as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, respectively. This ninety-minute version was played in one act. Cut songs included "The Big Dollhouse", "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", "Velma's Revenge", "Good Morning Baltimore (Reprise)", and "Cooties".
On November 12, 2008, as part of its 200th season, the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, opened a production of Hairspray, which closed on January 4, 2009 (the same closing day as the Broadway production). The show has quickly become popular with community theaters throughout the U.S. Marissa Perry and Constantine Rousouli reprise the roles of Tracy Turnblad and Link Larkin, respectively, that they played on Broadway at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, Chicago, September 23, 2009-December 6, 2009. The production is directed and choreographed by Marc Robin.
The West End production opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 11, 2007 for previews before its official opening on October 30. Michael Ball played Edna, with Mel Smith as Wilbur Turnblad, newcomer Leanne Jones as Tracy, Tracie Bennett as Velma, Paul Manuel as Corny Collins, Rachael Wooding as Amber, Elinor Collett as Penny, and Ben James-Ellis as Link. The original creative team of the Broadway production, helmed by director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, reunited for the London production. The show garnered a record-setting eleven Olivier Award nominations and won for Best New Musical, as well as acting awards for Best Actress and Actor in a musical (Jones and Ball).
In August 2008, the British television channel Sky1 began broadcasting Hairspray: The School Musical, which followed the development of a North London comprehensive school's production of Hairspray from audition to performance, with input from various actors and creatives, including members of the Broadway production team and the West End cast.
The show will tour the UK starting March 30, 2010. Michael Ball, who won an Olivier Award for his performance as Edna Turnblad in the London production of Hairspray, will play that same role in the upcoming tour.
The first international production ran for 245 performances in Toronto in 2005 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Vanessa Olivarez, a former American Idol contestant, starred as Tracy, and Jay Brazeau starred as Edna.
The South African production opened in Johannesburg in October 2007 with the original direction and choreography recreated by Matt Lenz and Greg Graham. New set and costume designs were by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. Other productions opened in Canada, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Italy, St. Gallen, Switzerland (in German) and Brazil.
A production in Buenos Aires, Argentina, opened on July 16, 2008 starring Enrique Pinti as Edna Turnblad. The role of Tracy was cast through a reality-competition show called Yo Quiero Ser la Protagonista de Hairspray(I Want to Be Hairspray's Protagonist). The musical also played in Shanghai, China, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre in July 2008 and Stockholm, Sweden in September 2008. Other productions are planned for Puerto Rico, Germany, France, Israel, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Mexico. Hairspray has been translated into Finnish, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese.
On November 14, 2008, Atlantis Productions opened a production of Hairspray in Manila in the Philippines, starring Madel Ching as Tracy Turnblad and Michael de Mesa as Edna Turnblad. The production closed on December 7, 2008.
On July 10, 2009, a Brazilian production opened in Rio de Janeiro, starring Edson Celulari as Edna and Daniele Winitz as Amber. A tour has also been announced, with stops in São Paulo, Brasilia, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.
A Dutch production of the musical will be produced by V&V Entertainment for the 2009/2010 season. Edna Turnblad will be played by Arjan Ederveen, Link Larkin by Jim Bakkum (runner-up in the first season of the dutch American Idol).
On December 6, 2009 a German production opens in Cologne. Edna Turnblad will be played alternately by the well known German actor Uwe Ochsenknecht and the in Germany also well known comedian Tetje Mierendorf. Tracy Turnblad will be played by Maite Kelly, former member of The Kelly Family and Penny Pingleton by Jana Stelley.
Cruise ship adaptation
It has been announced that Royal Caribbean International would present a 90-minute version, possibly the Las Vegas version, of the show onboard their new ship, Oasis of the Seas, which makes it maiden sailing in December 2009. The show is to be performed in the ship's 1350 seat Opal Theater three or four times on each seven night sailing. Casting is unknown at this time..
Setting: Baltimore, Maryland, June 1962
As “pleasantly plump” teenager Tracy Turnblad lies in bed, she muses about her love for her hometown, her love of dancing, and her desire to be famous (“Good Morning Baltimore”). After school, Tracy rushes home with best friend Penny to catch “The Nicest Kids in Town” on the local teenage dance show, The Corny Collins Show. Edna, Tracy’s shy and plus-sized mother, is ironing and complains about the noise of the music coming from the television, while Penny’s mother complains about it being race music. After an announcement that auditions for a place on the show will be held, Tracy begs her mother for permission to audition. Edna, fearing that Tracy will be laughed at due to her weight, refuses. Penny and Amber (the main dancer at the Corny Collins Show) have similar arguments with their mothers (“Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now”). After gaining permission and support from her father, Wilbur, Tracy auditions for the show and bumps into teenage heartthrob, Link Larkin, which leads into a dream sequence (“I Can Hear the Bells”). Velma Von Tussle, the producer of The Corny Collins Show, rejects Tracy from the audition because of her size (“(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs”). Velma also rejects a black girl, Little Inez. Back at school, Tracy is sent to detention again because her hair was “obstructing everyone’s view of the blackboard.” There she meets black dancer, Seaweed (the son of the host of Negro Day, Motormouth Maybelle), who teaches her several dance moves. She uses the new dance steps at the Sophomore Hop the following day to introduce herself to Corny Collins (“The Madison”). When Corny sees how well Tracy can dance, he gives her a place on the show (“The Nicest Kids in Town (Reprise)”). During the broadcast, Corny suggests that Link sing “It Takes Two” to her and Link quickly accepts, much to Amber’s dismay. After the show, Mr. Spritzer, the show’s worrisome sponsor, appeals to Velma over Tracy’s appointment to the Council. Velma, threatening to fire Corny from the show, is eventually left distraught and becomes determined to ruin Tracy (“Velma’s Revenge”). At the Turnblad house, Edna is receiving calls from fans who saw Tracy on the show. A call comes in from Mr. Pinky, the owner of a plus size dress shop, for an endorsement. Tracy pleads with her mother to come with her and to act as her agent although Edna has not left their apartment in years. Finally making it outside, Edna is given a huge makeover, as she is told, “Welcome to the ’60s” and Tracy becomes the spokes-girl for the shop. Signs of Tracy’s fame are evident in the schoolyard, with graffiti on the walls and another Council Member sporting Tracy’s signature hairdo. At school, Amber, jealous of Tracy’s fame, viciously throws a ball at her head in a game of dodge ball, knocking Tracy unconscious. After the game, Link comforts Tracy as Penny and Seaweed, who have developed a liking for each other, rush to fetch the school nurse, only to find her out sick. Seaweed, suggesting that some fun would make Tracy feel better, invites all of them to his mother’s record shop for a platter party (“Run and Tell That!”). At the shop, Tracy rallies everyone to march against the station on the next day’s Mother-Daughter Day, as African Americans are not allowed on the show except for the once-a-month Negro Day. Before they start, Motormouth Maybelle convinces the initially reluctant Edna and Wilbur to march as well. During the protest, led by Motormouth, Velma calls the police and fights break out. When the police arrive on the scene, almost everyone is arrested (“Big, Blonde, and Beautiful”).
Almost all of the women are now in “The Big Dollhouse”. Because of Velma’s dirty tactics, the governor pardons and releases both her and Amber. Wilbur bails out the remaining people, excluding Tracy who is forced to remain in jail through another one of Velma’s manipulations. Tracy is alone and wishes that Link could be with her (“Good Morning Baltimore (Reprise)”). Back at the Har-De-Har Hut (Wilbur's joke shop), Wilbur and Edna are left destitute because of the money it cost them to bail everyone out and with Tracy still in prison. Edna sympathizes with her daughter’s dream – she had dreamt of making her “own line of queen-sized dress patterns”. She and Wilbur reminisce about their past and how they can never be parted from each other (“(You’re) Timeless to Me”). During the night, Link sneaks into the jail where he finds Tracy in solitary confinement. As Link and Tracy reunite, Penny’s mother, Prudy, punishes Penny for “going to jail without her permission” and ties her up in her bedroom where Seaweed comes to her rescue. Both couples declare their love for one another (“Without Love”). After escaping from their respective prisons, the couples seek refuge at Motormouth Maybelle’s Record Shop. Tracy thinks that it is unfair that after all of their hard work, The Corny Collins Show is still segregated. They devise a plan to help integrate the show, and Motormouth remembers their long fight for equality (“I Know Where I’ve Been”). On the day of the Miss Teenage Hairspray competition, Corny Collins starts the show with a song (“(It’s) Hairspray”). Amber shows off her talents in a bid to get more votes from the viewers (“Cooties”). Just as the results are about to be announced, Tracy takes over the stage, and is joined by Link, Penny (now transformed from drool to cool), Seaweed, Edna, Wilbur, Little Inez, and Motormouth (“You Can’t Stop the Beat”). Tracy is declared the winner of the competition and she declares that The Corny Collins Show is officially integrated. When all is announced, Mr. Spritzer runs onstage thrilled with the public’s response to the telecast and announces that the governor has pardoned Tracy and he offers Link a recording contract. Prudy arrives at the station and, seeing how happy Penny is with Seaweed, accepts her daughter for who she is. At the height of the moment, the company invites Amber and Velma to join the celebration. With the station in joyous celebration, Tracy and Link share their first kiss.
Principal roles and casting
Character Description Original Broadway Actor/Actress Notable Broadway Replacements Original West End Actor/Actress Notable West End Replacements Film Version 2007
Tracy Turnblad A "pleasantly plump" teenager, who dreams of fame and fights to racially integrate The Corny Collins Show. Marissa Jaret Winokur Kathy Brier
Marissa Perry Leanne Jones Chloe Hart Nikki Blonsky
Edna Turnblad Tracy's kind, plus-sized mother – a drag role. Edna runs a laundry business out of her home. Harvey Fierstein Michael McKean
George Wendt Michael Ball Brian Conley
Phill Jupitus John Travolta
Amber Von Tussle Bratty, selfish resident princess of The Corny Collins Show, despite her lack of talent. She is willing to do anything to win the Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant. Laura Bell Bundy Becky Gulsvig
Aubrey O'Day Rachael Wooding Brittany Snow
Velma Von Tussle Amber's scheming mother and producer of The Corny Collins Show, who pushes her daughter to seek the stardom that she never had. Linda Hart Michele Pawk
Karen Mason Tracie Bennett Liz Robertson
Belinda Carlisle Michelle Pfeifer
Penny Pingleton Tracy's slightly dorky, devoted and perky best friend. Kerry Butler Jennifer Gambatese
Alexa Vega Elinor Collett Verity Rushworth Amanda Bynes
Link Larkin A teenage heartthrob and one of The Corny Collins Show Council Members, who falls in love with Tracy. Matthew Morrison Richard H. Blake
Ashley Parker Angel
Aaron Tveit Ben James-Ellis Liam Tamme Zac Efron
Motormouth Maybelle The owner of a downtown record shop and the host of "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show, self-described as "big, blonde and beautiful". Mary Bond Davis Darlene Love
Jenifer Lewis Johnnie Fiori Sharon D Clarke Queen Latifah
Seaweed J. Stubbs A hip "Negro Day" dancer and the son of Motormouth Maybelle who falls in love with Penny. Corey Reynolds Tevin Campbell Adrian Hansel Elijah Kelley
Wilbur Turnblad Tracy’s goofy father, who owns the Har-De-Har Hut joke shop and is still madly in love with his wife, Edna. He encourages Tracy to follow her dreams. Dick Latessa Jere Burns
Jim J. Bullock
Stephen DeRosa Mel Smith Ian Talbot
Micky Dolenz Christopher Walken
Corny Collins The eccentric and cocky host of The Corny Collins Show. Clarke Thorell Lance Bass Paul Manuel James Marsden
Little Inez Seaweed's younger sister, who tries to audition for The Corny Collins Show but is turned away because she is black. Danelle Eugenia Wilson Naturi Naughton Natalie Best Taylor Parks
Female Authority Figure The Matron guarding The Big Dollhouse, the Gym Teacher, and Prudy Pingleton: Penny's overprotective and often close-minded mother. Jackie Hoffman Julie Halston
Susan Mosher Wendy Somerville Allison Janney
Male Authority Figure Mr. Pinky, owner of Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway who gives Tracy and Edna a makeover, Principal of Patterson Park High School, and Mr. Harriman F. Spritzer, the President of Ultra Clutch Joel Vig
Jim J. Bullock
Kevin Meaney Dermot Canavan Jerry Stiller
Main article: Hairspray (2002 album)
"Good Morning Baltimore" – Tracy and Company
"The Nicest Kids in Town" – Corny and Council Members
"Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now" – Edna, Tracy, Prudy, Penny, Velma, Amber, and Company
"I Can Hear the Bells" – Tracy and Company
"(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs" – Velma and Council Members with Tracy, Penny, and Little Inez
"The Madison"† – Corny and Company
"The Nicest Kids in Town (Reprise)"† – Corny and Council Members
"It Takes Two" – Link, Tracy, and Men
"Velma’s Revenge"† – Velma
"Welcome to the ’60s" – Tracy, Edna, The Dynamites, and Company
"Run and Tell That!" – Seaweed, Little Inez, and Detention Kids
"Big, Blonde, and Beautiful" – Motormouth, Little Inez, Tracy, Edna, Wilbur, and Company
"The Big Dollhouse" – Matron, Edna, Velma, Tracy, Amber, Penny, Motormouth, Little Inez, Female Ensemble
"Good Morning Baltimore (Reprise)" – Tracy
"(You’re) Timeless to Me" – Edna and Wilbur
"Without Love" – Tracy, Link, Penny, Seaweed, and Company
"I Know Where I’ve Been" – Motormouth and Company
"(It’s) Hairspray" – Corny and Council Members
"Cooties" – Amber and Council Members
"You Can’t Stop the Beat" – Tracy, Link, Penny, Seaweed, Edna, Wilbur, Motormouth, Amber, Velma, and Company
†Not on the cast recording.
Several songs were cut from Hairspray before and during its pre-Broadway run in Seattle. One of such songs, an infomercial about safety on the road titled "Blood on the Pavement", followed "The Nicest Kids in Town". The song is included on the cast album. In early revisions, various songs, including "The Status Quo" and "Velma’s Cha-Cha" (and its short reprise), were used during Tracy’s audition and dismissal, but later versions have used "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", as the audience did not like seeing Tracy being verbally attacked after "I Can Hear the Bells". After the auditions, there was a scene in the Har-De-Har Hut in which Wilbur sang a song titled "It Doesn't Get Better than This". The song was later replaced by "Positivity"; the song and scene were later cut altogether from the Broadway version as emotionally redundant. In the scene, Wilbur tried to cheer up Tracy after her rejection from The Corny Collins Show auditions. After Tracy eventually made it on the show, there was a song "The New Girl in Town", which was sung first by the African-American girls and then by the Council girls. Although cut from the musical, it was included in the 2007 movie and is used in the instrumental score during the show. "The Mother-Daughter Cha-Cha-Cha" was another cut number that originally followed "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful". Later, the protest rally in the scene was incorporated into that song, thus deleting the number and the scene. A song called "Step on Up" was also cut in favor of "I Know Where I’ve Been". Early on in the genesis of the show, the plot involved a "Miss Auto Show" competition, as in the 1988 film, instead of "Miss Teenage Hairspray". For this competition, there was a song called "Take a Spin" sung by Corny in the place where “(It’s) Hairspray” is now. After Amber’s rendition of "Cooties", Tracy had a song before the finale called "It Ain’t Over ’Til the Fat Lady Sings". After the third reading of the show, however, it was cut. The number was later restored as a track on the Special Edition of the 2007 motion picture's soundtrack.
According to Variety, Hairspray received thirteen favorable and four mixed reviews. Charles Isherwood, in his Variety review wrote: "...this sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection won't be lacking for buyers any time soon. Arriving in an aerosol fog of advance hype, it more than lives up to its promise." Ben Brantley wrote: "So what if it's more than a little pushy in its social preaching? Stocked with canny, deliriously tuneful songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and directed by Jack O'Brien with a common touch that stops short of vulgarity, 'Hairspray' is as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay. ...[it] succeeds in recreating the pleasures of the old-fashioned musical comedy without seeming old-fashioned. ...Shaiman... is taking the infectious hooks and rhythms from period pop and R&B and translating them into the big, bouncy sound that Broadway demands.... And while the savvy arrangements... nod happily to Motown, Elvis, Lesley Gore ballads and standards like "Higher and Higher," the score's appeal isn't nostalgic. It's music that builds its own self-contained, improbably symmetrical world...." New York's Daily News wrote, "As Tracy, Marissa Jaret Winokur has the heft, the pipes and an enormously appealing stage presence. Her dancing may not be as special as the plot suggests, but she wins your heart... With this role, Fierstein places himself in the great line of Broadway divas."
Box office and business
Hairspray opened with a $12 million advance; after the Tony Awards show (in June 2003), it was expected to do five times the business it normally did on a Monday. The entire $10.5 million investment was recouped by May 2003 (approximately 9 months after its Broadway opening). For 2002-03 it averaged 99% capacity; for 2007 it averaged 86 %.
Awards and nominations
Awards / nominations for the Broadway / US productions
Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Harvey Fierstein)
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Marissa Jaret Winokur)
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Dick Latessa)
Tony Award for Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long)
Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (Jack O'Brien)
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Corey Reynolds) (nominee)
Tony Award for Best Scenic Design (nominee)
Tony Award for Best Lighting Design (nominee)
Tony Award for Best Choreography (nominee)
Tony Award for Best Orchestration (nominee)
Drama Desk Awards
Outstanding New Musical
Outstanding Book of a Musical
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Dick Latessa)
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Outstanding Costume Design
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Corey Reynolds) (nominee)
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Kerry Butler) (nominee)
Outstanding Choreography (nominee)
Outstanding Orchestrations (nominee)
Outstanding Set Design of a Musical (nominee)
Theatre World Awards
Marissa Jaret Winokur
Awards / nominations for the West End production
Critics' Circle Theatre Awards (2007)
Most Promising Newcomer – Leanne Jones (The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer)
Best New Musical
Best Actress in a Musical (Leanne Jones)
Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Ball)
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Tracie Bennett)
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Elinor Collett) (nominee)
Best Director (Jack O'Brien) (nominee)
Best Theatre Choreographer (Mitchell) (nominee)
Best Lighting Design (Kenneth Posner) (nominee)
Best Set Design (David Rockwell) (nominee)
Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long) (nominee)
Best Sound Design (Steve C. Kennedy) (nominee)
Evening Standard Awards (2007)
Best New Musical