NBC’s live musical events may have started as an experiment but have turned into something of a December tradition. Hairspray Live! became the latest installment to carry on the star-studded torch on Wednesday, December 7, and Us Weekly covered every detail in our up-to-the-minute recap.
Watch all the best moments in the video above, and read on for all the highlights, surprises, social media reactions and more! And be sure to start at the bottom if you want to get it in chronological order.
10:55 p.m. ET: But wait! It’s not over yet! The special ended with a duet sung by J. Hud and Ariana Grande. Hudson did seemed to do her best not to overpower the barely dressed Sam & Cat alum, but it’s not easy for anyone’s vocals to measure up to those of the former American Idol standout. But that’s OK: what Grande lacked in vocals, she made up for with peppy, semispastic dance moves.
10:52 p.m. ET: Everyone on the Corny Collins Show celebrated the glory of hairspray. Next, Amber performed a dance inspired by Tracy that had something to do with cooties. Just when she was about to win Miss Teenage Hairspray, Tracy arrived to perform her routine, an upbeat number declaring, “You can’t stop the beat!” Link danced with Tracy, upping the cuteness factor on her dance.
Then Penny (Ariana Grande) showed up dressed like a go-go dancer in a teeny, tiny green dress and knee-high white boots, and everyone tried to pretend to be surprised that she was actually hot. She declared herself “checkerboard chic” and joined in the performance with Tracy, Link and Seaweed. Then came the showstopping part of the number that celebrated the success of their efforts to integrate.
Tracy won the Miss Teenage Hairspray title and Link’s love (more officially, that is). The governor then called in to pardon Tracy because he was enjoying the show so much, Link made out with Tracy and the world made sense again.
10:27 p.m. ET: Tracy and Link ran to safety at Maybelle’s, where they debated whether they should continue their fight for integration. “I want us all dancing together,” Tracy said. “And I think it’s wrong that we can’t.” Maybelle then took a moment to sing an inspirational song about pushing ahead for what’s right. In case you forgot, Maybelle is Jennifer Hudson. And she was flawless. Again.
10:15 p.m. ET: As the protest ended, Tracy was arrested. Her parents then performed an epic love song. (As a refresher, Harvey Fierstein plays her mom, and Martin Short portrays her dad.)
Tracy’s mom brought her a grilled cheese in prison (well, the part she hadn’t eaten on the way over), which fueled Tracy to sing a ballad about her hopes for Baltimore to integrate. That’s when Link showed up to rescue her. He’d had a change of heart (and just in time!).
Meanwhile, Penny’s mom had tied her to the bed after finding her with Seaweed. Fortunately, Seaweed got into Penny’s bedroom to save her. For a moment, the scene looked a little like it was about to become Fifty Shades of Grey, but he ended up just whipping out his pocketknife and cutting her free.
Tracy was able to break out of jail because the bars were fake or something (it wasn’t really clear, but it was a minor detail and had something to do with budget cuts).
9:55 p.m. ET: It’s Jennifer Hudson! The Oscar winner made her entrance playing Seaweed’s mom, Motormouth Maybelle. Everyone was having a grand time until Amber showed up. (She followed Link there — not creepy at all!) Shortly after, Amber’s mom and Tracy’s mom showed up. Amber tried to get Link to leave with her, but he wouldn’t.
Link was with Tracy — until she got even more radical, encouraging Maybelle and others to come crash mother-daughter day on the show. Link told Tracy he couldn’t get on board with that because it would ruin his chances at becoming a famous singer. And with that, their romance was cut short. Link said sorry and left Tracy brokenhearted. Tracy decided the protest must go on, and Maybelle convinced Tracy’s mom to attend, too, despite her larger frame. It was all very girl power and anti-body-shaming.
Oh, then J. Hud sang a protest song that reminded every single person watching why she is virtually untouchable. Seriously. It was insane.
9:40 p.m. ET: During gym, Tracy’s special-ed class got the chance to mix with the other students, which included Amber. Penny met Tracy’s dance teacher and friend, Seaweed, and instantly fell for him. They all played a spirited game of dodgeball under the supervision of Rosie O’Donnell, which ended when Amber knocked Tracy out by smashing her on the head with a ball.
Link stuck around to revive Tracy. (Apparently back in the day, leaving a student unconscious on the floor would have been acceptable for a gym teacher.) Penny, Tracy, Link and Seaweed then went to a dance party where they danced their faces off until Penny passed out (overwhelmed by sexual tension) in Seaweed’s arms.
9:29 p.m. ET: Tracy’s star was on the rise, and she made her sassy mother (Harvey Fierstein) her agent. Tracy then proceeded to drag her mother out of the house, where a trio of singers introduced Mrs. Turnblad to the glory of the ’60s while she rode a hot dog cart (which are just as fabulous today!).
Tracy and her mom made their way to Mr. Pinky’s plus-size clothing store, and Tracy nabbed her first celebrity endorsement. Sean Hayes dropped in to play Mr. Pinky and spearhead Tracy’s and her mother’s makeovers. He put them both in boa-trimmed, Pucci-inspired dresses, and soon they were #twinning with the best of them.
9:15 p.m. ET: Not all viewers were pleased by the show’s depiction of special education.
Ummmm….pretty sure Special Ed doesn’t work like that. Not a disciplinary function for teachers to use… #HairsprayLive
— Heather Stoffa (@heathermarlaine) December 8, 2016
Did they just call all the black kids special ed? ? #HairsprayLive
— GeAndra ✨ (@geandraimani) December 8, 2016
9:07 p.m. ET: After the break, Tracy made her debut as a series regular on Derek Hough’s Oreo ad — we mean, on the Corny Collins Show. She further stirred the pot by declaring her desire to make “every day Negro day.” The show’s sponsor didn’t like that so much.
To make for interesting television, the host arranged for Link to serenade Tracy in front of the rest of the core dancers (his alleged girlfriend, Amber, included). After the show wrapped, Velma belted out a song arguing she was not a racist, and it blew basically everything that came before (ever!) out of the water, because when you’re Kristin Chenoweth, that’s what you do.
8:57 p.m. ET: It’s Rosie O’Donnell! The comedian popped in just long enough to give Tracy detention for her hair being too teased. It turned out that detention might have been the best thing that ever happened to this aspiring celebrity, since she got some key dance lessons from the other kids in detention. O’Donnell saw Tracy dancing with an African American guy and moved her to special ed (which meant she could get more free dance lessons).
Tracy arrived at the Corny Collins Show and quickly began teaching the show’s dancers the sexy moves she’d learned in detention. (Her teacher from detention was there too, but he danced on the “other side” of the ropes, since they kept the dance floor segregated.) Before they broke for the commercial, Derek Hough tried to sell viewers on how great Oreos were.
8:45 p.m. ET: Tracy and Penny made it to the forbidden audition. Within moments, Tracy bumped into her celebrity crush, Link Larkin (Garrett Clayton), and promptly lost her mind, fantasizing about their wedding and French kissing. Enter Velma Von Tussle (Chenoweth again), who asked Tracy if she would swim in an integrated swimming pool. Tracy, the heroine, said yes without missing a beat.
8:34 p.m. ET: Hairspray Live! proved from the start that it’s going to have staying power. Viewers met Tracy Turnblad (Maddie Baillio) and her best friend, Penny (Ariana Grande), who desperately want to audition for The Corny Collins Show. Derek Hough’s on hand to play the titular dance show host, while Darren Criss plays host. Dove Cameron started strong as Collins Show star (sort of) Amber Von Tussle, and Kristin Chenoweth was on point as Amber’s crazy mom.
The stage is set in a racially tense Baltimore, as Tracy and Penny plot to get to the audition, though the true highlight was seeing pint-size sexpot Grande trying to look like a nerd. A pair of glasses and some bizarre pigtails can only do so much.
8 p.m. ET: As fans know, Hairspray tells the story of curvaceous teen Tracy Turnblad (newcomer Maddie Baillio) who wins a role on a popular dance show, becomes Kardashian-level famous overnight and uses her newfound star power to fight to integrate the all-white program.
Broadway icon Harvey Fierstein plays Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, in a cross-dressing role that pushed the boundaries when the original film version was released back in 1988. Other celebs set to appear in the special include Martin Short, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana Grande, Derek Hough and Jennifer Hudson.
Previous live musical events on the network in recent years have included The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood, Peter Pan Live! featuring Allison Williams and The Wiz! led by a relatively unknown Shanice Williams.
Though things have gone smoothly in the past with no major mishaps, it is live television, so anything can happen. In other words, buckle up.
Hairspray Live! aired on NBC Wednesday, December 7, at 8 p.m. ET.