Ariana Grande to Play Penny Pingleton in ‘Hairspray Live!’: It’s a ‘Dream Role’

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Back to Broadway, baby! Ariana Grande, who got her start in musical theater, announced that she will finally be playing her “dream role” of Penny Pingleton in NBC’s upcoming production of Hairspray Live!

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The “Dangerous Woman” singer, 23, took to Twitter on Thursday, July 7, to share the exciting news.

“hi i have to tell you something very very exciting today,” she wrote. “most of you know that i’m really just a musical theater geek…. like a really big one… so…. my heart is very full re: this announcement … I AM NOWWW A CHECKERBOARD CHICK #HairsprayLive#Penny.”

In a subsequent tweet, the former Sam & Cat actress revealed that she has wanted to play the nerdy, socially awkward BFF of Tracy Turnblad for years.

“Penny has been a dream role since Hairspray opened on Broadway,” she shared regarding the character, which Kerry Butler originated when the show made its NYC debut in 2002. “At 9, I was (and still am) in LOVE w @KerryButlerNyc. hope to make u proud.”

Amanda Bynes and Nikki Blonsky
Amanda Bynes and Nikki Blonsky in ‘Hairspray’ in 2007. New Line/Everett Collection

Hairspray — which tells the story of self-proclaimed “pleasantly plump” teen Turnblad, who pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show in early ’60s — was initially produced as a movie in 1988. Leslie Ann Powers was the first to portray Penny. Grande’s fellow Nickelodeon alum Amanda Bynes tackled the role in the 2007 reboot of the classic film.

In 2016’s live edition of the musical, Grande will perform alongside famous faces such as Kristin Chenoweth (Velma von Tussle), Jennifer Hudson (Motormouth Maybelle), Harvey Feirstein (Edna Turnblad) and Derek Hough (Corny Collins). Newcomer Maddie Baillio will play Tracy Turnblad.

“anyway… I’m so honored and beyond excited to be a part of this dream cast……,” Grande gushed on Thursday. “I will for sure pass out at the table read. #HairsprayLive.”

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Prior to finding success in mainstream music, Grande got her first break in the entertainment industry in 2008 at age 14 when she was cast in the supporting role of the cheerleader Charlotte in 13: The Musical on Broadway. In a 2010 interview with Backstage.com, the pop star described the gig as her “first really, really, really exciting professional job.”

Hairspray Live! airs on NBC Wednesday, December 7, at 8 p.m. ET.

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