High School Meets Hairspray in New Reality ShowDate: 29 August 2008
A new musical reality TV series begins broadcasting on Sunday (31 August 2008), entitled Hairspray: the School Musical. Fronted by Denise Van Outen (pictured) and airing on Sky One, it sets an ordinary London high school the task of staging a “West End standard” production of Hairspray in just eight weeks.
Dan Barraclough, head of factual entertainment at Mentorn Media, which is co-producing the show with Sky, said in a press statement: “Great musicals are often about ordinary people achieving impossible dreams. So we thought, let’s try it for real.” He added that the chosen high school, Kingsmead Comprehensive in Enfield, Middlesex, is in for a “rollercoaster ride”.
The students of Kingsmead will be helped in their task by a “host of celebrities”, as well as members of the creative team behind the current multi award-winning West End production of Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre. From auditions through to opening night, producers promise to show “all of the emotions of the theatre”, from “crises in confidence” to “tears of joy”. No venue has yet been confirmed for the final performance, but according to the show’s website the cast will “rehearse and perform … on a West End stage”.
In addition to Denise Van Outen, who’s been a judge on the BBC One programmes Any Dream Will Do and I’d Do Anything, industry experts on the new series include voice coach Zoe Tyler (a panellist on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do) and Hairspray associate choreographer Danny Austin. The theatre reality programmes, largely devoted to musicals, are not without their critics; amongst whom, Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey earlier this year accused the BBC of an “unbalanced” support which disadvantaged plays (See News, 31 Mar 2008).
Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, and went on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In London, its many awards include a clean sweep of Best Musical prizes at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Awards. At this year’s Whatsonstage.com Awards, it scooped a record-breaking seven trophies in total.
Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky teen Tracy Turnblad - a big girl with a big heart, big dreams, a big stage mother and even bigger hair - who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme.
- by Theo Bosanquet