Stargazing

‘Hairspray’ will be NBC’s next live musical

Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) and her mom (John Travolta) are dreaming big in “Hairspray.”
Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) and her mom (John Travolta) are dreaming big in “Hairspray.” New Line Cinema

Welcome to the ’60s. NBC announced Wednesday that it is planning to give the live-action treatment to another beloved musical: “Hairspray.”

The network is using the same formula that worked so well for “The Wiz” and “The Sound of Music” (but not so much for “Peter Pan”): a live broadcast in December, masterminded by executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

“Hairspray” is the tale of Tracy Turnblad in 1960s Baltimore, who only wants to land a spot on a TV dance show — and integrate her town. It started as a dramedy by John Waters and became a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Zadan and Meron teamed to produce the 2007 movie musical, which starred then-newcomer Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron and John Travolta in drag.

NBC’s Bob Greenblatt told the Television Critics Association on Wednesday that it’s not a completely done deal, but close enough.

The networks are loving live shows because they’ve become must-see and must-tweet events; advertisers hate it when we DVR the shows they sponsor.

But the success hinges not just on the quality of the musical but the fame of the cast. Carrie Underwood played Maria in the best-rated of the NBC efforts, “The Sound of Music,” and Queen Latifah was the title character in the well-received “Wiz.” But ratings sagged for “Peter Pan,” whose biggest star was Christopher Walken as a very strange Capt. Hook.

Meanwhile, Fox is getting in on the musical game, planning “Grease: Live” for Jan. 31, starring Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit and Vanessa Hudgens.

Sharon Hoffmann: 816-234-4457, @Sharonakc

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