'Hairspray': The Road to a Hit

A photographic look behind the scenes at how the musical got to Broadway, with a sampling of what the critics are saying about the show.

August 17, 2002


"... Hairspray is, above all, Nice. This may be regarded as faint praise in New York, capital of Type A personalities. But Nice, in this instance, doesn't mean bland. Think of it spelled out in neon, perhaps in letters of purple and fuchsia. That's the kind of Nice that Hairspray is selling. And it feels awfully good to pretend, for as long as the cast keeps singing, that the world really is that way."

-- Ben Brantley, New York Times

"OK, so the new musical Hair- spray doesn't offer a cure for cancer, or the nose-diving Dow for that matter, but if the infectious jubilation currently spritzing from the stage of the Neil Simon Theater were bottled and sold across the country like, say, hair- spray, consumer confidence would not be a problem. ... Arriving in an aerosol fog of advance hype, it more than lives up to its promise."

-- Charles Isherwood, Variety

"Yep, it's a hit -- a great big fat gorgeous hit. For the second time in recent years, a new musical has roared into town and justified its advance glitz, glitter and hype."

-- Clive Barnes, New York Post

"All you can ask of a work of art is that it help you see the world more profoundly when you leave the theater than you did when you came in. That's what Hair- spray does."

-- Howard Kissel, New York Daily News

"It takes a big man to play a tender woman. This theatrical truth is made joyously plain from the moment the formidable frame of Harvey Fierstein, wearing a housedress and pin curls, is revealed to the audience of Hair- spray, the buoyantly entertaining mock-'60s musical ..."

-- Peter Marks, Washington Post

"After a beehive's worth of positive buzz, Hairspray opened last night ... bigger, brighter -- and much, much better -- than the John Waters film on which the musical is based."

-- Barbara D. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal

"What's most refreshing about this show ... is its old-fashioned heart. ... Playwrights Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan and tunesmiths Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman avoided the smug irony that pervades contemporary comedy. This is kitsch at its purest and least apologetic."

-- Elysa Gardner, USA Today

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