Hairspray is based on the 1988 film of the same name. Director and screenwriter John Waters based the television show featured in Hairspray, The Corny Collins Show, on the real-life The Buddy Deane Show and the racial events that surrounded it. The Buddy Deane Show was taken off the air in 1964 because its home station, WJZ, was unable to integrate the black and white dancers. In Hairspray, The Corny Collins Show faces the same dilemma, but instead, successfully integrates. Much of the Marc Shaiman’s (the composer and co-lyricist) musical composition for Hairspray is based on 1960s dance music and works to capture the the rhythm and blues made popular in the African-American community.
Hairspray premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle and, after an incredibly successful run on the west coast, was transferred to the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in 2002. The show featured Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy and Harvey Fierstein as Edna, Matthew Morrison as Link, Laura Bell Bundy as Amber, and Kerry Butler as Penny, along with many others. The Broadway production went on to win 8 tony awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2003 and went on to run for over six years, closing on January 4, 2009. It opened on The West End in 2007 and in Melbourne, Australia in 2010. The first U.S. national tour started in 2003 and ran through 2006, and since then has been produced all over the country as one of the nation’s favorite musicals.
In 2007, A second Hairspray film was made, this time an adaptation of the musical version. The film featured John Travolta, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, and Queen Latifah, among others. And on December 7, 2016, NBC broadcast the latest in live holiday television viewing with Hairspray Live! featuring the show's original star Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad, in an extravaganza set both in soundstages and on external sets with live audiences all around the Universal Studios Hollywood lot in California. The show also featured Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle, Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Derek Hough as Corny Collins, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad, and introduced newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad, who was found as part of a nationwide casting search.