For those of you who were watching NBC’s aborted fetus of a show on Wednesday, you know what a bone-cracking ordeal is was.
Hairspray, a musical which deals with timely subjects like racism and fat-shaming, has been a classic since its premiere in 2002. The songs, including “Good Morning Baltimore” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” have been heard the world over and became a worldwide sensation of musical comedy.
NBC’s decision, when it was announced, was met with ecstatic glee. This show, which works well for TV on paper, would easily fit the format and would allow brilliant leads and character actors to inhabit these roles created by the eccentric John Waters for his original movie, which featured his muse Divine and Debbie Harry of Blondie, to name but a few.
When the official cast list was announced, I gasped in sick horror when I saw a name that I wouldn’t let within a hundred feet of a Broadway theater, let alone inhabit one of the prime character actor parts in the show, Tracy Turnblad’s nerdy companion Penny Pingleton.
Grande, who has become a teenybopper cause célèbre, started out as half of the Nickelodeon young adult show Sam and Cat. She has since become a pop “star” who has the young boys slobbering and the young girls trying to mimic her slurred singing and faux-vamp aesthetic.
I said, from the moment that she popped onto the scene, that she didn’t have what it took to become a legitimate artist. The immortal jab that comedian Walter Matthau lobbed at Hello Dolly co-star Barbra Streisand often comes to mind: “I have more talent in my smallest fart than you have in your entire body.”
She is yet another example of a frozen dinner passed off as a serious artist. She came prepackaged, ready to bake, and easy to please. She’s made the rounds of the celebrity gossip rags, her relationships, affairs, and dalliances sheer opiates to the masses. Her music is about as white-washed as a Trump rally in Chattanooga, and her songs are paeans to the lame-brained and juvenile.
In no way could I call this two-a-penny tart an artist or actress of note. She satisfies an immediate need, similar to masturbation, but the aftereffect is one of shame and deep moral decay.
Watching her in Hairspray Live! was like seeing a large piece of lint on a cashmere sweater that can be plucked off with ease. Here is this momentary flash-in-the-pan trying to keep her own with some of the world’s most gifted comedians, including Harvey Fierstein, Martin Short, Rosie O’Donnell, Sean Hayes, and Andrea Martin.
For those of you who don’t know the show, Penny is the extremely nerdy, yet loving, friend of our well-rounded heroine Tracy. During the climax of the show, she is transformed into a beauty, even uttering to her mother, who coddles her, “I’m a pretty girl, Mama!” The moment where Grande appeared as a bombshell lost its meaning, as we never truly believed she was the nerdy character they dolled her up to be. She showed the dramatic range of the sock I keep in the bottom drawer and it, very embarrassingly, showed in living technicolor.
Her casting was the most egregious piece of inappropriate glamour casting since Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia, and at least he provided some comic relief with his “bathroom hand-dryer” vocal production.
I can be a bit acerbic, but if you look behind the sass, you’ll see why I’m saying all of this.
I am a creature of the theater. I love to watch, perform, live, and breathe musicals and know most of them backward and forward. I, therefore, have some very firm opinions that I am not afraid to voice.
Ariana Grande was cast as a way to lure children, young and old alike, into watching the telecast. Period. There was no reason for her being shoehorned into the proceedings other than to whore her out to bring in the “young vote.” Her behavior towards fans and colleagues alike would shock even the bitterest of Broadway Divas. She has not earned the right to tread the proverbial boards.
And, for the role of Penny, there were thousands upon thousands of actresses who have paid their dues doing eight shows a week who would kill for this one moment to show the world their stuff.
Instead, we were able to learn what we already knew: Ariana Grande sucks as an actress, singer, and artist in general.
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