Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hairspray's Original Songs

Those three of you interested in the "Original Song" Oscar category --arguably the Academy's strangest category: song writing is a skill worthy of the movie industry's highest award but casting and stuntwork are not (?) --should take note: Hairspray's soundtrack listing shows three songs that weren't in the Broadway show. Only one song, "The Big Dollhouse", has been cut. It was a comedic number sung in prison by Tracey Turnblad (the hero), her mother Edna and various other female characters. Contrary to original rumors there's no new song for villainess Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) though her equally evil daughter Amber (Brittany Snow) gets one, "The New Girl in Town". This leaves Pfeiffer with the Broadway show's least successful song "(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs" --the tune is weak and applause was limp the night I saw it on Broadway --the other songs tended to provoke berserk applause.

The other two new songs have gone to Tracey's beau Link (Zac Ephron) who gets a ditty called "Ladies Choice" and there's a group number led by Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) "Come So Far (Got So Far To Go)" Maybelle already has one inspirational tune. Now she'll have two? Seems like overkill... especially when you stop to consider that another new song "I Can Wait" written for Tracey has been cut from the film and the CD. Essentially the important supporting players have been given an extra number but there's no new songs for either the heroine or villain. I've listed the characters in rough descending order of their importance to the show and in parenthesis their number of solos/duet or group songs. Tracey Turnblad -Nikki Blonsky (2/5), Edna Turnblad -John Travolta (0/3), Link Larkin -Zac Ephron (2/3), Amber Von Tussle -Brittany Snow (1/0), Velma Von Tussle -Michelle Pfeiffer (1/1), Motormouth Maybelle -Queen Latifah (2/2), Wilbur Turnblad -Christopher Walken (0/1), Penny Pingleton -Amanda Bynes (0/2), Seaweed -Elijah Kelley (1/3) and Corny Collins -James Marsden (2/0). Alison Janney plays Penny's hysterical conservative mother (one variation on a stock character in John Waters ouevre) Prudy Pingleton but she has no songs.


The coolest track of the CD is likely to be "Mama I'm a Big Girl Now" given that it features three Traceys: the original Ricki Lake (from John Waters classic 1988 comedy) Marisa Jaret Winokur (a TONY winner for creating Broadway's Tracey) and this film's debuting big girl Nikki Blonsky. What does that mean? I'm guessing that it's been cut from the narrative and it's the closing credits song. But still, that's a potentially awesome number and a nice tribute to Hairspray's long journey from wonderful cult comedy to moneyed mainstream musical.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amber Von Tussle sings Cooties in the stage show AND the Von Tussles are also in You Can't Stop the Beat ("C'mon you Von Tussle and shake your fanny-muscles") and they do some crazy high harmonies. I don't know what the deal is with those songs.

NATHANIEL R said...

well COOTIES is by aimee allen on the soundtrack. and she's not in the cast so i assume it's moved to a credits song (?)

aj said...

the Von Tussles aren't in the movie version of You Can't Stop The Beat, they're in the scene, but don't sing in it towards the end like they do on Broadway.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that

"Big Blonde and Beautiful (reprise)" is newly written for the film. Featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and John Travolta.

NATHANIEL R said...

well 'big blonde and beautiful' won't qualify as original though since its a reworked / adapted song. but yes, velma is singing that for the first time in it reprise form.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I predicted this would get two nominations in Original Song. Can they resist nominating that (most likely) issue-themed Queen Latifah song? And if the voters are trying to get ratings, they'd be wanting to nominate the Zac Efron song. It would certainly be an entertaining performance.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I didn't get the jist of your rankings, but you're saying that John Travolta's character is of no importance in the film but has three numbers? This is a Tony-winning role, so wouldn't it be as important as Tracey's role in the film?

NATHANIEL R said...

hairspray is basically an ensemble so ranking them was just a silly whim. but yes I'd consider Edna Turnblad to be the secondary lead rather than the primary lead. Tracey Turnblad is always the star of the show with her mom coming in second --so i'm not sure i get the gist of the question because it's the second biggest role

NATHANIEL R said...

unless you're referring to the numbers after the names in which case as a reminder "0" is referring to the fact that Edna has no solos. All of her numbers are duets or groups.

Anonymous said...

okay for one thing i am so happy that Zac Efron, Nikki Blonsky, Elijiah Kelly, Amanda Bynes, and John Travolta were in the movie to lift these songs out of their current misery i downloaded a couple of the broadway songs and nearly fainted at the lack of talent those people had. and second getting Zac Efron in there was a smart move because he can sing and it helped him convince HSM2 writers to let him do his own vocals and omg someone needs to kill the broadway version oh wait i'll do that for you!!!