How to watch ‘Hairspray Live!’ tonight on The Shows Must Go On YouTube channel

Ariana Grande appears in this live Broadway musical, streaming free for 48 hours

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
Theater and Dance Editor, Time Out USA
Ariana Grande in Hairspray Live!, 2016
Photograph: Andrew Eccles/NBC | 2016 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The Shows Must Go On! – the run of free musicals on YouTube that began as an Andrew Lloyd Webber marathon – continues tonight, and this week’s production is ‘Hairspray Live!’ – with a cast featuring none other than pop superstar Ariana Grande. Here’s what you need to know.

‘Hairspray Live!’: what to expect

For sheer bubblegum musical-theater joy, it's hard to beat 'Hairspray', one of the best film-to-musical adaptations in Broadway history. And this version, broadcast live on NBC in December 2016, is among the most enjoyable live-TV musicals in recent memory. 

Set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962, 'Hairspray' is the tale of the irrepressible Tracy Turnblad, who is committed to breaking down barriers on 'The Corny Collins Show', a local TV platform for dancing teens. At first, that just means making space for plus-size gals like herself; eventually it extends to integrating the program for her African-American friends. Adapted from the 1988 John Waters film by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan – and buoyed by an exuberant 1960s-pastiche score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman – 'Hairspray' balances Broadway showmanship with winking camp all the way to its unstoppable finale.

The live TV version stars newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy, with a galaxy of stars in the supporting parts. Harvey Fierstein, who originated the role of Tracy's dowdy mother, reprises his star drag turn opposite Martin Short as Tracy's prankster dad. Ariana Grande plays Tracy's repressed best friend, Penny Pingleton, and Garrett Clayton is twink heartthrob Link Larkin. Dove Cameron nearly steals the night as Tracy's ruthless rival, Amber Von Tussel, whose scheming mother is played by Kristin Chenoweth; Jennifer Hudson sings a big civil-rights anthem, and Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph play her talented kids. Derek Hough, Andrea Martin, Sean Hayes, Rosie O'Donnell and Billy Eichner add oomph in small roles.

NBC had learned from the experience of its earlier broadcasts, and the choices it made here – from the casting to the camera work to the inclusion of a live audience – help lift 'Hairspray' to new fluffy heights.

‘Hairspray Live!’ streams on YouTube today, Friday May 29, from 7pm BST (2pm EDT, 4am AEST). Viewers have 48 hours to watch the show. It will be not be available to viewers in Asia and Latin America. Watch it here:

Here’s the full lowdown on The Shows Must Go On! – plus our full guide to the best theatre to watch at home.

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