What Is Hairspray The Musical About The Feel Good Story Of A Dreamer Who Takes On Racism And Wins

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Hello and welcome! Are you one of those people who just can’t get enough of musicals? If so, then you’ve probably heard of “Hairspray The Musical”! But for those of you who are not familiar with it, do not fret, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we will be talking all about “Hairspray The Musical” and what makes it one of the most beloved musicals of all time. So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in!

After reading this article, you can expect to have a clear understanding of what “Hairspray The Musical” is all about. You will discover the themes that the musical explores and the characters that you’ll be encountering throughout the story. We’ll delve into the motivations of the characters and what makes them tick. Moreover, we’ll talk about the musical’s impact on the theater industry, and how it has become an iconic show that continues to inspire many people around the world.

So, why should you listen to what we have to say? Well, for starters, “Hairspray The Musical” has received numerous awards and recognition since its debut in 2002. Its catchy tunes and memorable choreography have attracted millions of people, making it one of the most successful productions in the history of Broadway. But more importantly, the musical sheds light on important societal issues such as racism, body positivity, and inclusivity. So, if you’re ready to join us on this journey of music, dance, and social awareness, let’s get started!

The Origins of Hairspray the Musical: A Look at its Birthplace in Baltimore

The musical Hairspray is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name, set in Baltimore in the early 1960s. It tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a plus-size teenager with a passion for dancing who dreams of appearing on the “Corny Collins Show” – a local TV dance program. It’s a feel-good tale about breaking down barriers and promoting inclusivity, set against a backdrop of civil rights struggles and cultural upheaval. This article will explore the origins of Hairspray the Musical, focusing on its birthplace in Baltimore and the impact it has had on popular culture and musical theatre.

The John Waters Connection

John Waters, the director of the 1988 film, is known for his offbeat and often controversial films, which explore taboo subjects and challenge societal norms. Hairspray was a departure from his usual style, being a more mainstream family-friendly film, but it still retained his trademark humor and social commentary. Waters grew up in Baltimore and set many of his early films there, creating a cult following and a reputation as a “Pope of Trash.” The city was a natural choice for the setting of Hairspray, as it was home to the iconic “Buddy Deane Show” – a real-life dance program that inspired the “Corny Collins Show.” The film was a surprise hit, and its catchy soundtrack and quirky characters captured the imagination of audiences worldwide.

The Broadway Adaptation

Hairspray the Musical was born in 2002, when composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman teamed up with playwright Mark O’Donnell to adapt the film for the stage. The Broadway production was directed by Jack O’Brien and starred Harvey Fierstein as Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, and Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy. It premiered at the Neil Simon Theatre in August 2002 and went on to win eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The show ran for six years on Broadway, toured the world, and spawned numerous international productions and a movie adaptation in 2007.

The Legacy of Hairspray

Hairspray has had a significant impact on popular culture and musical theatre since its creation. It is often credited with helping to revive the Broadway musical genre and bringing a wider audience to the theatre. The message of inclusivity and acceptance that underpins the show’s plot has resonated with generations of fans, and its catchy tunes and colorful characters have become cultural touchstones. The influence of Hairspray can be seen in other musicals, such as The Prom, which tackles similar themes of acceptance and representation.

  1. Pros
  • Hairspray’s catchy soundtrack and colorful characters make for an entertaining and engaging musical experience.
  • The show’s message of inclusivity and acceptance is a valuable one and has inspired many fans.
  • Cons
    • Some have criticized the musical for being too simplistic and shallow, with a focus on style over substance.
    • The portrayal of certain characters has also been criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes and not being sufficiently nuanced.


    Hairspray the Musical is a beloved favorite of many theatre-goers, thanks to its catchy music, colorful characters, and message of inclusivity. Its origins in Baltimore and connection to the John Waters film ensure that it remains a quintessential piece of American musical theatre. While not without its flaws, the legacy of Hairspray is undeniable, and its impact will no doubt continue to be felt for years to come.

    The Characters of Hairspray the Musical: A Guide to the Cast and Their Role in the Story

    Hairspray is a Broadway musical that takes place in 1960s Baltimore, with a focus on the world of teenage dance shows and racial segregation. The story revolves around the protagonist Tracy Turnblad as she dreams of becoming a dancer on The Corny Collins Show and fighting for racial equality. Here is a guide to the main characters and their roles in the story:

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    Tracy Turnblad

    Tracy is the main character of Hairspray, a larger girl who is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show and yearns to dance on it. She is bubbly, optimistic and determined to make a change in the world by breaking the societal norms and promoting racial equality. Tracy is shown to be a true friend, not only for her black classmates, but also for her mother Edna, whom she convinces to embrace her own beauty and individuality. Tracy’s perseverance and enthusiasm inspire many people in the story and are a driving force in the plot.

    Corny Collins

    Corny is the host of The Corny Collins Show, a popular dance show in Baltimore. He is charming and flamboyant but also narrow-minded and discriminative, being content with having only white dancers on the show. Corny’s attitude and behavior echo societal norms and reveal the division and unjust treatment of African Americans, which Tracy and her friends are aspiring to change.

    Edna Turnblad

    Edna is Tracy’s mother, a role usually played by a male actor in a drag performance. Edna is a bubbly, fun-loving and supportive mother who can also be timid, insecure and self-conscious. Her fears of judgment and ridicule from society have led her to live a secluded life, but Tracy’s encouragement and activism help her to finally reveal her true self and shine on the dance floor.

    Wilbur Turnblad

    Wilbur is Tracy’s father, who owns a joke shop in Baltimore. He is easy-going, supportive, and the love of Edna’s life. Wilbur is a beacon of positivity and humor, bringing a lot of comic relief to the story.

    Link Larkin

    Link is a heartthrob on The Corny Collins Show and Tracy’s love interest, who aspires to be a singer. At first, Link is hesitant to join Tracy’s cause, but eventually agrees to perform with her in a rally for racial equality, showing that he is supportive of her beliefs and is willing to be a part of the fight for social justice.

    Amber Von Tussle

    Amber is the reigning Miss Teenage Hairspray, the popular and privileged daughter of Velma Von Tussle, a snobbish producer of The Corny Collins Show. Amber is unkind to Tracy, often mocking her weight and appearance. She is racist and supports segregation, which leads to a rivalry between her and Tracy.

    Seaweed J. Stubbs

    Seaweed is a black dancer on The Corny Collins Show and a friend of Tracy’s. He has rhythm, cool moves and shows Tracy the latest dance steps. Seaweed is a vocal and integral part of the racial protests led by Tracy, fighting for the right to dance and express themselves freely.

    Motormouth Maybelle

    Motormouth Maybelle is a black R&B singer and owner of a record shop in the city. She is a strong, charismatic and outspoken woman who becomes Tracy’s ally and mentor. Motormouth Maybelle is a pivotal character in the story, as she leads a rally for the civil rights movement in Baltimore and gives voice to the black community.

    Hairspray the Musical effectively depicts a time of severe racial tension in American society while featuring relatable and likable characters. The plot emphasizes the importance of following one’s dreams, valuing individuality, and fighting for social justice. The characters are an essential part of the story, each bringing their unique perspective and challenges, and ultimately coming together to create positive change.

    The Themes of Hairspray the Musical: Exploring Issues of Racism, Body Image, and Self-Love

    Hairspray the Musical is a production that highlights the issues of racism, body image, and self-love. Through its catchy music, vivid colorful costumes, and captivating storyline, this musical is a must-see for anyone looking to appreciate strong messages about society. It is a story of a young girl named Tracy Turnblad who desires to dance on a television show and in the process, finds the confidence to challenge racial segregation, hateful beliefs and societal pressure to conform to beauty ideals.

    Themes of Racism

    Racism has been a significant problem in society, both historically and in modern times. Hairspray the Musical follows the story of a young white girl who befriends a young black girl despite resistance from both white and black communities. It highlights the segregation and discrimination that existed in the 1960s, showing the effects it has on the oppressed groups. The storyline also highlights the importance of inclusivity and the need to break down cultural barriers.

    • The musical features the struggles, discrimination, and segregation that affected African Americans in the 1960s.
    • It also shows the negative effects of discrimination and segregation on society, including the breaking down of cultural barriers, mistrust, hatred, and division.
    • As an example in the real world, recent events like the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, highlight the need to recognize the racial inequalities that exist and the need to work towards equality and justice for all races.

    Connecting with the issue of racism, Hairspray musical casts diverse actors in each role. Bullets below this paragraph illustrate the pros of color-blind casting, and the table will show the cons for the same.

    Pros of Color-blind Casting

    1. Provides more opportunities for actors of all races and backgrounds to portray roles.
    2. Encourages a sense of inclusion and promotes diversity in the arts.
    3. Reduces stigmas surrounding cultural appropriation and stereotyping.
    Pros Cons
    Provides more opportunities for actors of all races and backgrounds to portray roles. May diminish cultural accuracy in an attempt to promote diversity.
    Encourages a sense of inclusion and promotes diversity in the arts. May result in criticism from those who believe that certain character portrayals should be reserved for certain races.
    Reduces stigmas surrounding cultural appropriation and stereotyping. May lead to backlash from those who believe that certain roles should only be portrayed by actors of a certain race.

    Themes of Body Image

    Body image is another crucial theme explored in Hairspray. The musical showcases the struggles of young women to fit into cultural beauty standards, including the importance of being skinny, the societal pressure to conform, and the negative impact of these standards on self-esteem. Tracy, the protagonist of the musical, breaks through these stereotypes and displays that true beauty is not only skin deep, and confidence comes from within.

    • The musical highlights how society’s beauty standards can lead to negative self-image, low self-esteem, and unhealthy behavior.
    • It encourages individuals to embrace their bodies and spread the message of body positivity.
    • Real-world examples from organizations such as The Body Positive, National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and Do the Hotpants show that the message of body positivity has been taken up by many around the globe.

    Themes of Self-Love

    Self-love is interconnected with the theme of body image, as the character Tracy learns to love herself and appreciate her unique qualities. Hairspray teaches that true self-confidence is achievable if we embrace our talents, are comfortable in our skin, and love ourselves for who we are.

    • The importance of self-love is a significant theme demonstrated in the musical.
    • The story of Tracy is an example of how having confidence in oneself is essential to success, as it enables individuals to overcome prejudice and discrimination.
    • Real-world examples like Zoe Sugg (Zoella), Jameela Jamil, Adele, and Lizzo, among many others, have used their platform to promote self-love and challenge harmful beauty standards.
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    Overall, Hairspray the Musical is an inspiring production that serves as a message of hope, equality, and love. Through its messages of inclusivity, body positivity, and self-love, it offers a valuable lesson for audiences of all ages. With its innovative storylines, catchy songs, and talented cast, this musical truly is a must-watch to promote these critical values in society.

    The Music of Hairspray the Musical: A Review of the Show’s Catchiest Tunes and Memorable Numbers

    The music of Hairspray the musical is one of its biggest strengths. Composed by Marc Shaiman, the songs are catchy and energetic, making them perfect for the upbeat tone of the show. Here, we review the most memorable tracks from the show and what makes them so special.

    1) “Good Morning Baltimore”

    “Good Morning Baltimore” is the opening number of Hairspray the musical and sets the tone for the entire show. It’s a lively, upbeat song that celebrates Baltimore and its people. The song features lead character Tracy Turnblad, who’s excited to be out in her beloved city, and dreaming of being a dancer on the Corny Collins Show.

    What makes “Good Morning Baltimore” so catchy is its use of repetition, rhythm, and melody. Shaiman’s composition is infectious, and coupled with lyrics by Scott Wittman, it creates a song that gets stuck in your head very easily. The music is heavily influenced by the Motown and soul sounds of the 1960s, which helps to transport the audience back to a time when the civil rights movement was just starting.

    2) “You Can’t Stop the Beat”

    “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is the grand finale of Hairspray and is a rousing number that leaves the audience on a high. The song is full of energy and features every character in the show, demonstrating the power of unity and diversity. The song is a celebration of life and the belief that nobody should be held back by their color, size or shape.

    The song is highly memorable because of its upbeat tempo, impressive harmonies, and powerful lyrics. It features a mixture of dancing and singing, which helps to keep the energy levels high. Apart from that, the song resembles the main message of the entire show which is equality and justice for everyone.

    3) “Without Love”

    “Without Love” is a significant musical number in Hairspray in that it brings various characters together. The song is a quartet between Tracy and her friends Penny, Link, and Seaweed. They make their way to detention at the school and bond over a love song.

    The song is a slow ballad and it’s composed of four vocals singing together but with different parts in a lovely harmony. What makes this song special is how it contributes to the romantic development between the main characters, Link and Tracy, whilst underlining the show’s message of crossing all social boundaries.

    4) “I Know Where I’ve Been”

    “I Know Where I’ve Been” is one of the most powerful numbers in Hairspray. The song is performed by Motormouth Maybelle, the African-American host of the “Negro Day” on the Corny Collins Show. She sings about her experiences of fighting for civil rights and equality during a time of turmoil and always remembering where she comes from.

    This song is an extraordinary show-stopper that incorporates a gospel choir-type composition. The number is powerful and emotional, and it conveys the message of how difficult life was in America in the early 1960s specifically for the African-American community. It’s remarkable that the song fit in perfectly with the entire show, delivering a strong message of hope and perseverance.

    5) “Welcome to the 60s”

    “Welcome to the 60s” is an applause-worthy musical number that marks Tracy’s first appearance of making it to the Corny Collins Show. The song is about Tracy as she takes her opportunity to prove to the world that anyone can be famous regardless of their shape, size or color.

    The song is composed of a strong beat and fantastic melodies, and lively choreography. The composition also sets the tone of the entire show and reflects the messages of equality and hope, which are central points of the plot.

    Pros Cons
    Powerful and emotional None
    Diversified vocal range None
    High energy and catchy tunes None
    Strong lyrics with social commentary None
    • The music in Hairspray the musical is diverse and influenced by Motown and soul sounds of the 1960s.
    • The songs demonstrate messages of equality and uplifting people regardless of their shape, size or color.
    • The show features powerful harmonies, catchy melodies, and engaging choreography.
    • The songs help in reflecting and conveying the social messages of the show and others carry personal development of the characters involved.
    • The music in Hairspray the musical is enjoyable and entertaining in its own right.

    In summary, the music is one of the most significant and enjoyable elements of Hairspray the musical. The songs effectively demonstrate the show’s message of uplifting people and eliminating social boundaries, whilst maintaining high entertainment levels. The soundtrack for Hairspray the musical is an encapsulation of how good show music can transcend from the stage to become a cult classic.

    Hairspray the Musical on Broadway: Tracing the Show’s Journey from Stage to Screen

    Hairspray is a musical that tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a teenager who loves to dance and dreams of appearing on a popular TV show called The Corny Collins Show. The plot takes place in Baltimore in the 1960s and touches on themes of racial inequality and discrimination. The musical became a hit on Broadway and was adapted into a movie in 2007. This article will trace the journey of Hairspray from stage to screen.

    How Hairspray Became a Hit Musical on Broadway

    Hairspray was first produced on Broadway in 2002. The book was written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the music was composed by Marc Shaiman, and the lyrics were written by Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The original cast included Harvey Fierstein, Marissa Jaret Winokur, and Matthew Morrison.

    The musical was an instant hit, receiving rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. It won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical. Hairspray ran for 2,642 performances and closed in January 2009. It remains one of the most popular musicals of all time.

    The Casting of Hairspray: Breaking Barriers in Broadway

    Hairspray made history by casting Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy Turnblad, a role that many actresses would have considered too “plus-sized” to play. The casting of Winokur had a significant impact on the way that Broadway viewed body image in actors and actresses.

    Winokur’s casting also confronted Hollywood’s preference for thin body types. In the years that followed the success of Hairspray, actresses such as Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy gained traction in Hollywood for their comedic talents, despite not fitting the industry’s traditional standards of beauty.

    The Journey from Stage to Screen

    In 2007, the musical was adapted into a movie with John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron in the lead roles. The film was directed by Adam Shankman and produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The movie brought Hairspray’s story to a wider audience, and it was a commercial and critical success.

    The movie soundtrack featuring songs such as “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” “Good Morning Baltimore,” and “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” received widespread acclaim, selling over 1.5 million copies and earning a Grammy nomination. In 2015, a live television production of Hairspray aired on NBC, with Ariana Grande, Derek Hough, and Harvey Fierstein in the cast.

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    Impact and Legacy of Hairspray: Social Justice and Acceptance on Stage and Screen

    Hairspray’s impact on Broadway and the entertainment industry as a whole cannot be overstated. The show’s themes of racial integration, female empowerment, and body positivity have resonated with audiences for years. The musical tackled sensitive issues such as segregation, interracial relationships, and societal pressures to conform to beauty standards.

    Hairspray has become an important part of American pop culture. It has inspired movies, TV shows, and even a theme park attraction at Universal Studios. The show has also inspired social change, with audience members and cast members alike taking a stand against discrimination and bigotry.

    Comparison with the Original Show: Changes and Adaptation to Suit the Screen

    The movie adaptation of Hairspray made some significant changes to the story, characters and overall tone of the show. Some of the changes included:

    • Adding new songs to the soundtrack such as “Ladies’ Choice” and “Come So Far (Got So Far To Go)”
    • Changing the ending to be more uplifting and hopeful
    • Alterations to the choreography to suit the film’s setting and characters
    • Casting famous actors to attract a wider audience

    Although the movie did make some changes, it stayed true to the show’s message and themes. The movie’s success and legacy are a testament to the power of Hairspray’s story and universal themes of acceptance and equality.

    Pros and Cons of Adaptation: Does it Always Work?

    Adapting a Broadway musical to the big or small screen is always a challenging task. There are several pros and cons to consider when making the transition.

    Pros of adaptation:

    • Increased visibility and exposure to a wider audience
    • Opportunities to change and adjust elements that were problematic on stage
    • Ability to cast famous actors to attract a wider audience
    • May revive interest and boost sales of original show merchandise

    Cons of adaptation:

    • Risk of losing cultural nuances and the intimacy of live theatre
    • Risk of losing the charm and personality of the original show
    • May require significant changes to the original production, which may anger fans of the original show
    • May require a significantly higher budget to produce

    Adapting a Broadway show to the screen is not always the best option. It requires careful consideration of the original show’s message, themes, and execution.


    Hairspray is a beloved musical that has resonated with audiences for decades. Its journey from stage to screen has been a remarkable one, with the movie and TV adaptations adding to its cultural impact. Hairspray’s legacy lies in its ability to entertain audiences while simultaneously addressing important social issues. It continues to inspire people around the world to fight against bigotry and prejudice.

    FAQs – What is Hairspray the Musical About?

    1. What is the plot of Hairspray the Musical?

    Hairspray the Musical is about a teenager named Tracy Turnblad who dreams of becoming a dancer on a popular TV show. The musical is set in the 1960s and explores issues of racial segregation, body image, and social injustice.

    2. Who wrote Hairspray the Musical?

    Hairspray the Musical was written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The music and lyrics were composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

    3. When was Hairspray the Musical first performed?

    Hairspray the Musical premiered on Broadway in August 2002.

    4. What inspired the story of Hairspray the Musical?

    Hairspray was inspired by a 1988 film of the same name, which was written and directed by John Waters. The musical adaptation takes certain liberties with the plot and adds new songs.

    5. What are some of the popular songs from Hairspray the Musical?

    Some popular songs from Hairspray the Musical include “Good Morning Baltimore,” “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” and “Welcome to the 60s.”

    6. Who are some of the notable actors who have played roles in Hairspray the Musical?

    Notable actors who have appeared in Hairspray the Musical include Harvey Fierstein, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Nick Jonas, Amanda Bynes, and John Travolta.

    7. How long is a typical performance of Hairspray the Musical?

    A typical performance of Hairspray the Musical is around 2 hours and 30 minutes, including intermission.

    8. What are some of the themes explored in Hairspray the Musical?

    Hairspray the Musical explores themes of racial integration, body positivity, and standing up for what is right in the face of adversity.

    9. What age group is Hairspray the Musical appropriate for?

    Hairspray the Musical is generally appropriate for audiences of all ages, but some younger children may not fully understand the themes explored in the show.

    10. What is the overall tone of Hairspray the Musical?

    Hairspray the Musical is a lighthearted and upbeat show that is intended to entertain audiences while also shining a light on important social issues.


    In conclusion, Hairspray the Musical is a fun and uplifting show that explores important themes of racial integration, body positivity, and standing up for what is right in the face of adversity. The show has been praised for its catchy music, colorful costumes, and energetic dance numbers, and has become a beloved classic of the musical theater genre. If you’re interested in seeing the show, be sure to check your local theater listings.

    After reading this article, you may be interested in learning more about the history of musical theater, or checking out some of the other classic musical shows that have graced the Broadway stage over the years. We encourage you to keep exploring our website, where you’ll find plenty of other interesting and informative articles to read.

    Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you back again soon!