“Hairspray,” was a 1988 movie before becoming a successful stage musical realized in 2002, through the hard work and determination of its creators, a book of the musical, and has been remade into a musical movie.  There are differences between the film and the stage musical, both in the plot and characters.  The creators put a lot of work into making this a successful musical from a successful film, with fourteen years between the different productions.

One difference is that the musical did not have any “Hollywood stars” and the film did.  The original film, “written and directed by John Waters” stared Rikki Lake as the main character, teenager Tracy Turnblad, who Marissa Jaret Winokur originated the role in the stage musical.  Edna, Tracy’s mother was played by “drag queen,” Divine in the film and Harvey Fierslein in the original musical production.  The biggest difference is that it is full of singing, dancing, lots of music, and almost no dialogue.  The songs are “original tunes you can actually sing.”

The differences I noticed were in the plots, characters and the relationships between the characters.  In the plots, the 1988 movie had Tracy taken to psych word and the musical her, friend, enemy, and mothers were put in jail.  Amber had a father in the film and in the musical, he is not a character.  In the movie, the big event that got people hurt and Tracey taken was at a fair, in the music it is a march that took place. 

Margo Lion decided to make “Hairspray” into a musical when watching the film.  In fall 1998, he “began negotiating for the rights.”  In the spring of 1999, the negotiations were finally made.  He then met with John Waters, the writer.  Then they agreed that Waters would not “adapt the material” but would be involved.

The musical has been written in a “book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.”  The music was composed by Marc Shaiman.  The lyrics were written by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, two men who were famous in the Broadway world.” Hairspray,” the musical “started performances, in a May tryout run in Seattle in June,” 2002 at the “5th Avenue Theatre.”  There it was produced by “David Armstrong as Producing Artistic Director and Marilynn Sheldon as Managing Director.  Then it opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater on August 15 2002.  There it was produced by “Margo Lion, Adam Epstein, The Baruch Viertel Routh Frankel Group, James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer, Rick Steiner/Frederick H.Mayerson, SEL & GFO, and New Line Cinema.”  The rest of the crew included Director Jack O’Brien, Choreographer Jerry Mitchell, Set Designer David Rockwell, Costume Designer William Ivey Long, Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner, Sound Designer Steve C. Kennedy, Casting Bernard Telsey Casting, Production Supervisor Steven Beckler, Wigs and Hair Designer Paul Huntley, Orchestrations Harold Wheeler, Music Director Lon Hoyt, Arrangements Marc Shaiman, Music Cordinator John Miller, General Management Richard Frankel Productions and Laura Green, Technical Sepervision Tech Production Services, INC, Press Representatives Richard Kornberg and Don Summa, and Associate Producers Rhoda Mayerson, The Aspen Group, Daniel T. Staton.

Audiences were excited as soon as the word got out about the film becoming a musical.  To get more people to come to the performances, the marketers had to do some work before the tryout run.  They offered free tickets, had a “’hair dresser night.”  They spread the news by “word of mouth.”  Other ways were giving people “booklet of coupons with tickets, and promo CDs.  Last, they got Bloomingdale’s to put up “window displays and sell a line of clothing, plus-sized sportswear, pink and black striped T-shirts and MAC cosmetics based on the musical.” They even had the cast make appearances on television, including at the “Vogue/VH1 Fashion Awards, NBC’s Today Show, and at the Rockefeller Center.  The music was sent to radio stations, so people could hear the sons before going to the theatre.  A billboard “framed in neon lights” was put up in Times Square.  They are spending less money on advertisement and spend most of the money “closer to openings,” due to the “lousy economy and the aftermath of 9/11.”  The first audiences were full of people with wigs and hairspray.

The original film and the great stage musical are mainly the same story, but are also completely different.  They both take place in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960’s.  Margo Lion did a great job turning this film into a musical.  He had help from a great crew.  In addition, the musical was so successful because of the market teem and all they did to promote it.

Work Cited

Applebaum, Michael “Guerrillas in the Mist.”  Brandweek 43.45 (2002):  24.  Academic Search Complete.  EBSCO.  Web.  15 Oct. 2009. 

Bateman, David.  Theatre Journal, Vol. 55, No. 4, Theatre and Activism (Dec., 2003),  pg.719, 721-22.  Published by:  The John Hopkins University Press

Long, Robert Emmet.  “Producing & The Theatre Business:  Working In the Theatre.” In Depth:  Hairspray (2002) (Richard Franklin and Margo Lion).  Pg. 76-79.  The American Theatre Wing.  2007. 

O’Donnell, Mark and Meehan, Thomas.  “Hairspray:  The Complete Book and Lyrics of The Hit Broadway Musical.”  Pg. xii  2002.

Peyser, Marc.  “’Hairspray’ Hits Broadway.”  Newsweek August 26, 2002, U.S. Edition.  Arts and Entertainment; pg.52.  LexisNexis Academic.

Shapiro, Howard, Inquirer Staff Writer.  “Big hair, big ambitions, and a big social issue in Broadway’s ‘Hairspray.’”  The Philadelphia Inquirer August 18, 2002, Sunday Advance Edition.  Pg, H01.


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