Why John Waters Wasn’t On ‘Hairspray Live,’ And Why He Hasn’t Watched It Yet

Hairspray Live went off without a hitch, and almost everybody that is anybody in the world of John Waters’ world of Hairspray was there, except John Waters. In the original Ricki Lake version of Hairspray, Waters was even in the movie, trying to deprogram Penny Pingleton, but on Hairspray Live, Waters was nowhere to be found, and not even behind the scenes. Now Waters is saying that he will have to watch Hairspray Live On Demand, as he didn’t get to watch it live, but why?

When Hairspray was on Broadway, it attracted a Hamilton type of attention, says the Inquisitr. After a run on Broadway, a musical version of Hairspray was made into a movie that attracted a great deal of attention. As soon as Hamilton is on a DVD, there is no doubt that fans will be clamoring for it. But if Hamilton goes live for television, it’s hard to believe that Lin-Manuel Miranda wouldn’t be there.

John Waters confirmed to NBC that he wouldn’t be taking part in Hairspray Live, and he wouldn’t even get to watch it live (but he plans to watch it later), but it is not because there is any ill will. It has been 28 years since Waters first brought Hairspray to the screen, and Waters says that Hairspray has become an industry of its own. But though he won’t be taking part, he’s happy about the event.

“I’m happy about it. I’ve been paid to do three sequels that never happened. Keep them coming. I’ll keep writing them.”


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Waters says that other than creating the original, he really had nothing to do with Hairspray Live.

“Well, my role in it is really less and less sometimes as it goes along. I’ve certainly met the people. I met the new Tracy when she was in Baltimore.”

But Waters explains that before the date was chosen for Hairspray to go live, he was booked in Colorado to do his one-man Christmas show.

“They asked me to be in it, but I’m on stage that night in Boulder, so I can’t even watch it. I have to watch it On Demand the next morning in an airport or something.”

But John Waters says he is surprised but grateful that there is still so much interest nearly 30 years later.

Hairspray Live has been long awaited, and now that it’s in the can, it’s fair to say that it went well, and the star power didn’t hurt, says Vanity Fair. Kenny Leon, the director of Hairspray Live, cut his teeth on The Wiz Live, but perfected his live musical skills on Hairspray.

“It takes the best of theater, the best of film, the best of television, and creates something completely new. The key is to get all of the ensemble to be in the same storytelling mode.”

One of the great tools that can be used with theater live on television is the close-up, says Leon. And he put it to good use for Hairspray Live.

“I want the viewers to know Tracy’s heart. From the first song, I want to get in close on her eyes. I want the audience to fall in love with her. You have to find the truth that will translate through the camera.”

And Leon said that another priority was to give the audience the feel of Baltimore and the different sides of town.

“The story is about blacks and whites coming together. So I have to feel a difference between the north side of town and the south side of town, or else we have no story.”

Did you watch Hairspray Live? Were you surprised that you didn’t see John Waters, and that he did little press in support of the live musical?

[Featured Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]