According to interviews included as an extra feature on the 2007 film's DVD release, theatre producer Margo Lion first conceived of Hairspray as a stage musical in 1998 after seeing a television broadcast of the original film. "I was home looking at a lot of movies, and one of those movies was Hairspray." She contacted John Waters, who gave her his blessing, then acquired the rights from New Line Cinema. Lion contacted Marc Shaiman, who expressed interest in the project only if his partner Scott Wittman could participate, and Lion agreed. The two submitted three songs, one of which, "Good Morning Baltimore," eventually became the show's opening number. Based on their initial work, Lion felt confident that she had hired the right team.
Lion contacted Rob Marshall about directing the musical. At the time he was involved in negotiations to direct the screen adaptation of Chicago, but he agreed to become involved in the early development stages of Hairspray with the stipulation he would drop out if assigned the film. Marshall remembered Marissa Jaret Winokur from her brief appearance in the film American Beauty and arranged a meeting with Shaiman and Wittman. The two immediately felt she was right for the role of Tracy Turnblad but hesitated to commit without seeing any other auditions. They hired Winokur to work with them on the project with the understanding she might be replaced later. One year later, Winokur was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Certain she would lose the role if the creative team learned about her condition, she underwent a hysterectomy without telling anyone but her immediate family. The treatment and surgery succeeded, and Winokur returned to the project. Meanwhile, Marshall had started work on Chicago, and Lion hired Jack O'Brien and Jerry Mitchell to direct and to choreograph, respectively. Winokur was one of the first to audition for the role of Tracy Turnblad and spent two years preparing with voice and dance lessons. Tracy's mother had been portrayed by Divine in the original film, and Shaiman liked the idea of maintaining the tradition of casting a male as Edna Turnblad. Harvey Fierstein auditioned for the role with a "half hour vocal audition". He thought they were "pacifying" him, but he was told "they don't want anyone but you".
According to Shaiman, one song, "I Know Where I've Been," became controversial during the genesis of the score:
"This was ... inspired by a scene late in the  movie that takes place on the black side of town. It never dawned on us that a torrent of protest would follow us from almost everyone involved with the show. 'It's too sad. ... It's too preachy. ... It doesn't belong. ... Tracy should sing the eleven o’clock number.' We simply didn't want our show to be yet another show-biz version of a civil rights story where the black characters are just background. And what could be more Tracy Turnblad-like than to give the 'eleven o'clock number' to the black family at the heart of the struggle? Luckily ... the audiences embraced this moment, which enriches the happy ending to follow, and it is our proudest achievement of the entire experience of writing Hairspray
After a successful tryout at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, Hairspray opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on August 15, 2002. Jack O'Brien directed the production, which Jerry Mitchell choreographed, with set design by David Rockwell, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, sound design by Steve C. Kennedy, and the many distinctive wigs in the show by Paul Huntley. The original Broadway cast included Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein in the lead roles of Tracy and Edna respectively. The cast also featured Matthew Morrison as Link, Laura Bell Bundy as Amber, Kerry Butler as Penny, Linda Hart as Velma, Mary Bond Davis as Motormouth Maybelle, Corey Reynolds as Seaweed, Jackie Hoffman as Matron, Dick Latessa as Wilbur, and Clarke Thorell as Corny Collins. Kamilah Marshall, Shayna Steele, and Judine Richard played the Dynamites.
Hairspray received Tony Award nominations in 12 categories, winning eight, including for best musical, book, score and direction. Winokur, Fierstein and Latessa received awards for their performances. The production ran for more than six years, closing on January 4, 2009 after 2,642 performances. Thorell returned to the cast for the final ten months. Fierstein and Winokur returned to the cast for the final performances.
The West End production opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 11, 2007 for previews before its official opening on October 30. Michael Ball played Edna, with Mel Smith as Wilbur Turnblad, newcomer Leanne Jones as Tracy, Tracie Bennett as Velma, Paul Manuel as Corny Collins, Rachael Wooding as Amber, Elinor Collett as Penny, and Ben James-Ellis as Link. The original creative team of the Broadway production, with director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, reunited for the London production. The show garnered a record-setting eleven Olivier Award nominations and won for Best New Musical, as well as acting awards for Best Actress and Actor in a musical (Jones and Ball). The production closed on March 28, 2010 after a run of nearly two-and-a-half years and over 1,000 performances.
An Australian production of Hairspray opened in Melbourne at the Princess Theatre on October 2, 2010 to critical acclaim. It was directed by David Atkins and choreographed by So You Think You Can Dance Australia judge Jason Coleman. The show moved to Sydney from June 23, 2011. The cast included Jaz Flowers as Tracy, Trevor Ashley as Edna, Jack Chambers as Link, and Tevin Campbell reprising his role from the Broadway production as Seaweed J. Stubbs. Atkins redesigned the production using new technologies. The set used enormous LED screens, which moved around the stage in various combinations, as the characters interacted with animated landscapes generated across the screens. The musical opened at Sydney's Lyric Theatre at The Star Casino on 11 June 2011 and closed on 25 September 2011, two weeks earlier than anticipated, ending its Australian run.
The First U.S. national tour started a run in September 2003 in Baltimore and ended in June 2006. It starred Carly Jibson as Tracy, Bruce Vilanch as Edna, Terron Brooks as Seaweed, Sandra DeNise as Penny, Susan Cella as Velma, and Ramona Cole (soon replaced by Charlotte Crossley) as Motormouth Maybelle. When the tour stopped in Los Angeles, Winokur reprised her role as Tracy, together with the original Broadway Link, Matthew Morrison. The same creative team of Jack O'Brien (dir.) and Jerry Mitchell (chor) were at the helm. Lon Hoyt served as music supervisor. Jim Vukovich served as music director for the entire 33 months on the road.
In July 2006, a non-Equity U.S. and Asian tour opened in Atlantic City's Harrah's Casino. The shorter "casino version" was used for a six-week run, but when the tour moved on, it continued with the full version of the show minus the character of Lorraine. The production starred Brooklynn Pulver as Tracy, Jerry O'Boyle as Edna, Dan Ferretti as Wilbur, Constantine Rousouli as Link, Christian Dante White as Seaweed, Alyssa Malgeri as Penny, Jarret Mallon as Corny, Happy McPartlin as Velma, Pearl Thomas as Amber, and Yvette Clark as Motormouth Maybelle. The tour played sit down engagements in Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. It played its final performance on April 25, 2010 at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, California.
After the West End production closed, Hairspray began touring the UK and Ireland, starting at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on April 7, 2010, following previews from March 30. The tour stars Michael Ball, Brian Conley and Michael Starke alternating as Edna, Les Dennis, Nigel Planer and Micky Dolenz alternating as Wilbur and Laurie Scarth as Tracy.
Hairspray toured the UK and Ireland in 2013. The show opened on February 13 in The Lowry Theatre in Manchester with Mark Benton playing Edna Turnblad. Lucy Benjamin playing Velma Von Tussle, Marcus Collins as Seaweed Stubbs and Freya Sutton as Tracy Turnblad, respectively. Further casting to be announced soon. MM Musicals presented the show at FairfieldHalls, Croydon, in the Ashcroft Theatre, from 19–22 November 2014, with Corin Miller as Tracy, Andy Lingfield as Edna, and Natalie Cave as Penny.
There has been an announcement (in March 2015) on Mark Goucher's production site that Hairspray will be touring the UK from August 2015 with casting and venues to be announced shortly.
Following the success of the UK tour, the new production of Hairspray will return at the end of summer 2017 to once again tour the UK.Las Vegas
A Las Vegas production ran at the Luxor Hotel in 2006 starring Katrina Rose Dideriksen as Tracy, Austin Miller as Link, and Fierstein and Latessa reprising their roles as Edna and Wilbur. This ninety-minute version was played in one act. Cut songs included "The Big Dollhouse", "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", "Velma's Revenge", "Good Morning Baltimore (Reprise)", and "Cooties".Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International presents the show on their new ship MS Oasis of the Seas, which made its maiden voyage in December 2009. The show is performed in the ship's 1350 seat Opal Theater three times on each seven-night cruise.Hollywood Bowl
A production at the Hollywood Bowl ran from August 5–7, 2011, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Original Broadway cast members Fierstein and Winokur reprised their roles as Edna and Tracy Turnblad. The cast also featured Corbin Bleu (Seaweed J. Stubbs), Drew Carey (Wilbur), Diana DeGarmo (Penny), Mo Gaffney (Prudy and others), Nick Jonas (Link Larkin), Darlene Love (Motormouth Maybelle), Susan Anton (Velma Von Tussle), and John Stamos (Corny Collins).
US regional premiere The Riverton Arts Council in Riverton Utah Preformend the US regional premiere at the Sandra N. Lloyd Performing Arts Center July 30-Aug. 21 2010.
The first international production opened in Toronto at the Princess of Wales Theatre in April 2004 and ran for 245 performances. Vanessa Olivarez, a former American Idol contestant, starred as Tracy, and Jay Brazeau starred as Edna. Stephanie Pitsiladis, cast as the standby for Vanessa, is the first Canadian to have portrayed the role of Tracy Turnblad.
A South African production opened in Johannesburg in October 2007 with the original direction and choreography recreated by Matt Lenz and Greg Graham. New set and costume designs were by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. A production in Buenos Aires, Argentina, opened on July 16, 2008 starring Enrique Pinti as Edna. The role of Tracy was cast through a reality-competition show called Yo Quiero Ser la Protagonista de Hairspray' (I Want to Be Hairspray's Protagonist).
On November 14, 2008, a production of Hairspray in Manila in the Philippines, starring Madel Ching as Tracy and Michael de Mesa as Edna. The production closed on December 7, 2008. On July 10, 2009, a Brazilian production opened in Rio de Janeiro, starring Simone Gutierrez as Tracy and Edson Celulari as Edna. A 2010 Brazilian tour stopped in São Paulo, Brasilia, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.
A Dutch production ran during the 2009/2010 season. Edna Turnblad was played by Arjan Ederveen and Link was Jim Bakkum (runner-up in the first season of the Dutch American Idol). On December 6, 2009 a German production opened in Cologne. Edna is played alternately by Uwe Ochsenknecht and comedian Tetje Mierendorf. Tracy is played by Maite Kelly, former member of The Kelly Family and Penny is Jana Stelley. The first production of Hairspray in the German language, however, took place at the Theater St. Gallen, Switzerland. A re-creation of the Broadway/Wast End production of the show opened in Dubai in July 2010 with Leanne Jones, from the West End production, reprising her role as Tracy and Antony Stuart-Hicks as Edna.
Other productions opened in Canada, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Italy, St. Gallen, Switzerland (in German) and Brazil. The musical also played in Shanghai, China, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre in July 2008 and Stockholm, Sweden in September 2008. Other productions are planned for France, Israel, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Mexico. Hairspray has been translated into German, Finnish, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, French and Hebrew.
There was a production which was performed in the Hong Kong Cultural Center, by a performing arts company called Face Production. They won a HK Heckler Award for Best Musical, Best Actress and Best Set Design.
In August 2008, the British television channel Sky 1 began broadcasting Hairspray: The School Musical, which followed the development of a North London comprehensive school's production of Hairspray from audition to performance, with input from various actors and creatives, including members of the Broadway production team and the West End cast.
The first amateur MTI production was produced at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in the summer of 2008.
Hairspray was the next live musical to be produced by NBC, and was broadcast on December 7, 2016. Newcomer Maddie Baillio was chosen to play Tracy Turnblad. Jennifer Hudson and Harvey Fierstein starred as Motormouth Maybelle and Edna Turnblad, respectively. Martin Short portrayed Wilbur Turnblad and Derek Hough played Corny Collins. Kristin Chenoweth starred as Velma Von Tussle, and Ariana Grande played the role of Penny Pingleton. The roles of Amber Von Tussle and Link Larkin were played by Dove Cameron and Garrett Clayton, respectively. Sean Hayes portrayed Mr. Pinky, and Rosie O’Donnell played the gym teacher.
Setting: Baltimore, Maryland, June 1962
As “pleasantly plump” teenager Tracy Turnblad lies in bed, she muses about her love for her hometown, her love of dancing, and her desire to be famous (“Good Morning Baltimore”). She goes to school and is given a warning for "inappropriate hair height". After school, Tracy rushes home with her best friend, Penny, to catch the local teenage dance show, The Corny Collins Show (“The Nicest Kids in Town”). Edna, Tracy’s shy and plus-sized mother, is ironing and complains about the noise of the music coming from the television, while Penny’s mother, Prudy, complains about it being race music. After an announcement that auditions for a place on the show will be held due to the fact that Brenda (one of the Corny Collins Council Members) has taken a leave of absence from the show due to being pregnant, Tracy begs her mother for permission to audition. Edna, fearing that Tracy will be laughed at due to her weight, refuses. Penny and Amber (the main dancer on The Corny Collins Show) have similar arguments with their mothers ("Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now").
After gaining permission and support from her father, Wilbur, Tracy auditions for the show and bumps into teenage heartthrob, Link Larkin, which leads into a dream sequence ("I Can Hear the Bells"). Velma Von Tussle, the racist producer of The Corny Collins Show, rejects Tracy from the audition because of her size ("(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs"), as well as refusing a black girl, Little Inez. Back at school, Tracy is sent to detention for her "monumental hair-don't". There she meets black dancer Seaweed J. Stubbs (the son of the hostess of "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show, Motormouth Maybelle), who teaches her several dance moves. She uses the new dance steps at the Sophomore Hop the following day to introduce herself to Corny Collins ("The Madison"). When Corny sees how well Tracy can dance, he gives her a place on the show ("The Nicest Kids in Town" (Reprise)). During the broadcast, Link, following Corny’s suggestion, sings "It Takes Two" to Tracy, much to Amber’s dismay. After the show, Mr. Spritzer, the show’s worrisome sponsor, appeals to Velma over Tracy’s appointment to the Council. Velma, threatening to fire Corny from the show, is eventually left distraught and determines to ruin Tracy ("Velma’s Revenge").
At the Turnblad house, Edna is receiving calls from fans who saw Tracy on the show. A call comes in from Mr. Pinky, the owner of a plus-size dress shop, for an endorsement. Tracy pleads with her mother to come with her and to act as her agent although Edna has not left their apartment in years. Finally making it outside, Edna is given a huge makeover ("Welcome to the 60's") and Tracy becomes the spokes-girl for the shop. At school, signs of Tracy’s fame are evident in the schoolyard, with graffiti on the walls and Shelly, another Council Member sporting Tracy’s signature hairdo. During a game of dodge ball, a jealous Amber knocks Tracy out, and Link rushes to her side. Penny and Seaweed, who have developed a liking for each other, rush to fetch the school nurse, only to find her out sick. Seaweed, suggesting that some fun would make Tracy feel better, invites all of them to his mother’s record shop for a platter party ("Run and Tell That"). At the shop, Tracy rallies everyone to march against the station on the following day’s Mother-Daughter Day, as blacks are not allowed on the show except for the monthly Negro Day. Before they start, Motormouth Maybelle convinces the initially reluctant Edna and Wilbur to march as well. Link declined to participate for the sake of his contract with the show. During the protest, led by Motormouth, Velma calls the police and fights break out. When the police arrive on the scene, almost everyone is arrested ("Big, Blonde and Beautiful").
After the march, most of the women are locked up in a women's penitentiary ("The Big Dollhouse"). Because of Velma’s dirty tactics, the governor pardons and releases both her and Amber. Wilbur bails out the remaining people, excluding Tracy who is forced to remain in jail through another one of Velma’s manipulations. Tracy is alone and wishes that Link could be with her ("Good Morning Baltimore" (Reprise)). Back at the Har-De-Har Hut (Wilbur's joke shop), Wilbur and Edna are left destitute because of the money it cost them to bail everyone out and with Tracy still in prison. Edna sympathizes with her daughter’s dream – she had dreamt of making her “own line of queen-sized dress patterns”. Edna and Wilbur reminisce about their past and how they can never be parted from each other (“(You’re) Timeless to Me”). During the night, Link sneaks into the jail where he finds Tracy in solitary confinement. As Link and Tracy reunite, Penny’s mother, Prudy, punishes Penny for “going to jail without her permission” and ties her up in her bedroom where Seaweed comes to her rescue. Both couples declare their love for one another ("Without Love"). After escaping from their respective prisons, the couples seek refuge at Motormouth Maybelle’s Record Shop. Tracy thinks that it is unfair that after all of their hard work, The Corny Collins Show is still segregated. They devise a plan to help integrate the show, and Motormouth remembers their long fight for equality ("I Know Where I've Been").
On the day of the Miss Teenage Hairspray competition, Corny Collins starts the show with a song ("(It’s) Hairspray"). Amber shows off her talents in a bid to get more votes from the viewers ("Cooties"). Just as the results are about to be announced, Tracy stuns Amber as she makes her entrance in a magenta dress without any petticoat underneath, taking over the stage, and is joined by Link, Penny, Seaweed, Edna, Wilbur, Little Inez, and Motormouth. Tracy is declared the winner of the competition. Amber and Velma protest the results, claiming that it is all wrong. Little Inez then tries to take the crown by force when Amber refuses to hand it over, but Tracy stops her, claiming that her heart is set on something more important, which is Link and her future. She then proclaims the Corny Collins show is "now and forevermore" racially integrated, to much applause. When all is announced, Mr. Spritzer runs onstage thrilled with the public’s response to the telecast and announces that the governor has pardoned Tracy and gave her a full college scholarship and he offers Link a recording contract and Velma the position of vice president of Ultra Glow – beauty products for women of color, much to the latter's chagrin. Prudy arrives at the station and, seeing how happy Penny is with Seaweed, accepts her daughter for who she is. At the height of the moment, the company invites Amber and Velma to join the celebration. With the station in joyous celebration, Tracy and Link cement their love with a kiss ("You Can't Stop the Beat").
Principal roles and casts of major productions of stage productions of Hairspray
Hairspray went through several revisions before and during its pre-Broadway run in Seattle, in the process eliminating and replacing several musical numbers. One song, an infomercial about safety on the road titled "Blood on the Pavement", followed "The Nicest Kids in Town", and is included on the cast album, following "You Can't Stop the Beat". In early revisions, various songs, including "The Status Quo" and "Velma’s Cha-Cha" (its short reprise replaced by “Rage,” in turn dropped in favor of “Velma’s Revenge”), were used during Tracy’s audition and dismissal, but the team instead opted for "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs", as the audience did not like seeing Tracy being verbally attacked after "I Can Hear the Bells". After the auditions, there was a scene in the Har-De-Har Hut in which Wilbur tried to cheer up Tracy after her rejection, singing that "It Doesn't Get Better than This". Later replaced by the similar "Positivity", the scene was later cut early in the Seattle tryout as it was deemed emotionally redundant.
After Tracy eventually made it on the show, there was a song "The New Girl in Town", which was sung first by the Council girls and later by the black Girls. Although later cut early during the Seattle tryout, it was included in the 2007 film and appears in the show’s instrumental score. "The Mother-Daughter Cha-Cha-Cha" was another cut number that originally followed "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful". Later, the writers absorbed the protest rally and Mother-Daughter Day into the number, thus deleting the song and folding the sequence into a single scene. A song called "Step on Up" was also cut in favor of "I Know Where I’ve Been". Early on in the genesis of the show, the plot involved a "Miss Auto Show" competition, as in the 1988 film, instead of "Miss Teenage Hairspray". For this competition, later revised due to the cost of cars onstage, there was a song called "Take a Spin" sung by Corny in the place where “(It’s) Hairspray” is now. After Amber’s rendition of "Cooties", Tracy had a song before the finale called "It Ain’t Over ’Til the Fat Lady Sings," though, it was cut after the third reading of the show; it was included as a track on the Special Edition of the 2007 motion picture's soundtrack.
Hairspray's orchestration calls for fifteen musicians: three keyboards, the first of which is played by the conductor, bass guitar, two guitars, drums, percussion, trumpet, trombone, two woodwind players, two violins, and cello. The guitarists both double on acoustic and electric guitars, and the trumpet doubles on flugelhorn; the original Broadway production also featured a piccolo trumpet double. The first woodwind player doubles on tenor and alto saxophones, flute and clarinet. The second woodwind player doubles on tenor, alto and baritone saxophones, flute and clarinet.
In the original Broadway production, a few of the actors mimed on musical instruments in order to fulfil a minimum musician requirement at the Neil Simon Theatre.
According to Variety, Hairspray received thirteen favorable and four mixed reviews. Charles Isherwood, in his Variety Magazine review wrote: "...this sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection won't be lacking for buyers any time soon. Arriving in an aerosol fog of advance hype, it more than lives up to its promise." Ben Brantley wrote: "So what if it's more than a little pushy in its social preaching? Stocked with canny, deliriously tuneful songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and directed by Jack O'Brien with a common touch that stops short of vulgarity, 'Hairspray' is as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay. ...[it] succeeds in recreating the pleasures of the old-fashioned musical comedy without seeming old-fashioned. ...Shaiman... is taking the infectious hooks and rhythms from period pop and R&B and translating them into the big, bouncy sound that Broadway demands.... And while the savvy arrangements... nod happily to Motown, Elvis, Lesley Gore ballads and standards like "Higher and Higher," the score's appeal isn't nostalgic. It's music that builds its own self-contained, improbably symmetrical world...." New York's Daily News wrote, "As Tracy, Marissa Jaret Winokur has the heft, the pipes and an enormously appealing stage presence. Her dancing may not be as special as the plot suggests, but she wins your heart... With this role, Fierstein places himself in the great line of Broadway divas."
Hairspray opened with a $12 million advance; after the Tony Awards show (in June 2003), it was expected to do five times the business it normally did on a Monday. The entire $10.5 million investment was recouped by May 2003 (approximately 9 months after its Broadway opening). For 2002-03 it averaged 99% capacity; for 2007 it averaged 86%.
A film version was released in July 2007. The film was directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman and starred John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad, Queen Latifah as Maybelle, Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle, James Marsden as Corny Collins, and Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad. Hugh Jackman and Joey McIntyre were both considered to play the role of Corny Collins, but lost to Jackman's X-Men co-star Marsden. NBC's Hairspray Live!, directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski, aired in December 2016 to mostly positive reviews.
Sources: PlaybillVault; Internet Broadway Database; Playbill; Playbill
Sources: Playbill; Playbill; Olivier Awards The Telegraph