Hairspray Live Soundtrack Review

Hairspray Live! Soundtrack: 6 Biggest Surprises From the NBC Cast Recording

Attention, theater geeks: If you can find it in your heart to pause The Hamilton Mixtape for a minute, there’s another album we should probably discuss.

Masterworks Broadway on Thursday night released the official cast recording of Hairspray Live!, nearly a full week before the NBC musical’s Dec. 7 broadcast — which is good, because we’ll need all that extra time to dig through what is turning out to be a treasure trove of surprises and wonderment. (I promise, even the most die-hard Hairspray fans are in for a few shocks.)

Below are just a few of my personal observations from the album’s 19 tracks:

* Derek Hough can sing! You’d think I’d know better than to doubt the pipes of a Hough, especially after Julianne’s killer performance in Grease: Live, but I’m just not that evolved. So imagine my delight upon hearing Derek’s rock-solid performance of “The Nicest Kids in Town,” “(It’s) Hairspray” and…

* “Ladies’ Choice” is no longer a Link Larkin number. The song — originally written for the 2007 film, in which Zac Efron played Link — is now performed by Hough’s Corny Collins. When asked for the reason behind the switch, Garrett Clayton (Live!‘s Link) had only this to say:

* Dove Cameron’s got soul. Having seen (and heard) her work on Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie and Descendants, I knew Cameron (aka Live!‘s Amber) could sing. But she displays a level of sass and strength on the soundtrack, particularly on “Cooties,” that prove she’s truly a musical force to be reckoned with.

* Sean Hayes gets welcomed to the ’60s! No, your ears aren’t deceiving you. That really is Hayes — as integrative boutique owner Mr. Pinky — lending his pipes to the Tracy/Edna classic “Welcome to the ’60s.” Fun!

* Maddie Baillio is a damn star. Ironically — or perhaps intentionally — the least-known actress in the Hairspray Live! cast is also likely to be the most talked-about. If her live performance features even half of the incredible vocals and infectious energy of her work on the soundtrack, she’ll easily be in the running for America’s favorite Tracy (which, as you know, is a bloodbath).

* Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson are a dream team. We’re all aware of the talent possessed by these queens — Grande as Penny and Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle — but it’s still worth noting that their performance of “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go),” another song originally written for the 2007 film, is among the soundtrack’s finest.

I could go on about this album for days — it goes without saying that Kristin Chenoweth takes every opportunity to sing her tiny face off — but I’d rather hear from you now. Give it a listen (via Spotify) below, then drop a comment with your thoughts.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Chris says:

    Derek isn’t bad at all but his version just made me wanna listen to James Marsden’s version.

  2. Betsy says:

    Derek is fine, Maddie is very good, Kristin is perfect, Jennifer is powerful, Elijah is good, Garrett is decent, but Ariana is bad. I’m not putting her down because she’s a popstar; I had high hopes for her. But she is playing Ariana here and not Penny. She’s supposed to be meek and nerdy and then undergo and transformation to fierce when she pairs up with Seaweed. Instead, she’s sultry and breathy throughout. Too bad.

    • Simon says:

      Ding ding ding! I do believe you’ve hit the nail on the head! There is no flip side to the Penny, she’s playing her as one note.

    • Sara says:

      Too be fair, I would wait until the actual production to pass final judgement on how she plays the role of Penny. Recording the album is a totally different process, which may have put her in a different mindset.

  3. Chris Roof says:

    @Andy – so you aren’t aware that Derek Hough had a band with Mark Ballas a few years back? They released an album as ‘Ballas Hough Band’.

  4. macd says:

    When Derek Hough played the male lead in the Radio City Spring Spectacular 2 years ago, his fine baritone voice did full justice to two Jerome Kern classics–“The Way You Look Tonight” and “I Won’t Dance”. When is mainstream Hollywood finally going to wake up and make young Mr. Hough the movie superstar he was always destined to be?

  5. z says:

    Reading this made me think of Amanda Bynes and how she’s doing right now. Hope she’s good

  6. cb says:

    loved loved derek singing and Maddie is amazing

  7. Megan says:

    There was an interview with the writers/execs, etc and they said that they were going to use Madison from the Broadway show instead of Ladies Choice originally. The choreographer Jerry Mitchell said that he wanted to utilize Derek’s dance skills so they used Ladies choice instead of Madison and decided to make it Cornys song instead and he’s dancing.

    I’m not sold on Arianna as Penny yet, but Come So Far (Got So Far To Go) was incredible. She is a theatre geek and penny has been her dream role so I hope I end up liking her in the role.

  8. Sal says:

    So I just listened to the album with no skipping, and I have to say it was much better than when I listened to it at midnight… idk why though. But anyways, imma defend Ariana because I feel all these comments about her need to set the record straight. So many say “She’s not being Penny, she’s being herself.” Now, I’d like to beg to differ and say that as an actress, she’ll definitely be Penny. But singing is another thing. Get what I mean? Overall, I’m gonna say because Ariana knows the vocals, meaning, she knows when to go high and when to stay low, she’s the best. There were times when I though someone should sing higher and times when they should’ve stayed low. Not naming names. Hope y’all can figure for yourselves.

  9. Simon says:

    Can someone explain why on earth they would cast Ariana Grande? First off, she has no oomph in any of her songs. Secondly, she’s playing the daughter of a disgusting racist, yet she looks like she could at the very least be mixed race and third there are SO many better actresses, stunt casted or not that could’ve played Penny

  10. mc says:

    I maybe loved the 2007 movie cast version too much, so I’m not all that pleased with this one. Maybe until after I watch them live this week. But everyone’s fine. Kristin Chenoweth, all the damn time.
    And Ariana Granda would’ve been a good choice because of her TV/Nickelodeon roots, but I agree with most people here. A part of me still wish they cast Melissa Benoist instead.

  11. Lore says:

    Waaiit, where is “The New Girl in Town”?

  12. Temperance says:

    Ariana Grande can sing, but you really can’t understand a thing she sings. Mumble, mumble, mumble… ugh.

  13. Stephen says:

    I do have faith that’s Ariana can be great and a pleasant surprise for the actual live show. Harvey Fierstein and the director of the production said her acting in rehearsals have been incredible, so I wouldn’t be quick to throw judgment on her just yet. To me she’s making Penny her own just as Amanda Bynes did, and I do think she’s gonna surprise many people during the show.

  14. JB says:

    I do wish they added “The New Girl in Town” from the movie. That number is great, especially when the black girls take over.

  15. dsrbroadway says:

    Derek has done musical theatre on both sides of the Atlantic, and Sean Hayes was on Broadway with Kristen Chenoweth – no big surprises there.

  16. giveadogabone says:

    Would be great if you could also tell us who the studio musicians are!

  17. Sarah Smith says:

    The Nicest Kids In Town were the best thing in the whole show- I especially liked Shelley (Helene Britany ) and IQ (Sam Faulkner) thought they were great along with Kristen Chenoweth and Derek Hough- whole show was great they should take back to Broadway the whole cast!