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Streaming arts pick: ‘Hairspray’ reunion

A photo from the 1988 version of "Hairspray" directed by John Waters and starring Ricki Lake.
(David James / New Line Cinema)

With much of the arts moving to online and streaming platforms, here’s a look at a weekly standout:

My pick: Performers from various versions of “Hairspray” — Broadway, London, the original John Waters movie, the 2007 musical movie and even the 2016 NBC production — virtually gather to sing the infectiously catchy finale number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

Why: In normal times, this song is a bit too peppy for my liking. It’s a perfect closer if I’m actually watching the musical and have invested in Tracy Turnblad’s quest for size acceptance and racial equality. But it’s not a song that I’d put on my Broadway Spotify playlist (yes, I have a show tunes playlist).

But I found this video on a day when I was particularly down and it had just the dose of pep needed to turn my mood around.

Maddie Baillio, front right, co-stars in the new made-for-TV musical musical adaptation "Hairspray Live!" airing on NBC.
(Trae Patton / NBC)

It opens with shots of a live orchestra (oh, how I miss a live orchestra), and then goes on to spotlight the first Traci Turnblads: Ricki Lake from the 1988 movie, and Marissa Jaret Winokur from the 2002 Broadway premiere.

After that, the video opens up to show more singers and ensemble dancers performing in their kitchens, and then there’s an onslaught of star-filled cameos: Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Andrew Rannells, Harvey Fierstein, Jenifer Lewis, Sean Hayes (Mr. Pinky), Matthew Morrison, Billy Eichner and many more.

Even though it’s all done on Zoom, the video doesn’t have that canned feeling that tends to happen with some streaming arts. There’s choreography, and it’s all pieced together to look like an ensemble. There’s an energy that causes you to stop what you’re doing and engage with the music. It’s the closest thing out there to a live stage show, and it’s a reminder why theater is so beloved and so missed.

Find it: The video is actually a fundraiser for The Actors Fund COVID-19 Emergency Financial Assistance program and you can find it on YouTube.


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