Show History



Hairspray is based on the 1988 film of the same name, directed by John Waters. Waters based the main storyline and "The Corny Collins Show" on the real-life "The Buddy Deane Show" and racial events surrounding it. Theatre producer, Margo Lion, saw a television broadcast of the film in 1998 and started to conceive it as a stage musical. She reached out to Marc Shaiman, and they based their material on both the 1960s dance music and the rhythm and blues in the African-American community at the time. Shaiman and Wittman used many already-established songs from the 60s as a basis for their own songs, like "River Deep, Mountain High" for "You Can't Stop the Beat" and "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher" for "Without Love."

Initially, Rob Marshall was brought in to direct, but scheduling conflicts with the movie, Chicago, proved to be too much. In writing the book, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan made copious changes from the original screenplay. They chose to create obstacles for Tracy, simplified the plot, and fleshed out characters like Link, Seaweed and Velma. They routinely collaborated with Waters about plot points and choice of language.


Hairspray, a musical comedy based on the film of the same name, premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. The musical features music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, and book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Following a successful West Coast engagement, it transferred to Broadway and opened at the Neil Simon Theatre on August 15, 2002. The show ran for more than six years, closing on January 4, 2009, after over 2,600 performances.

Shortly after opening on Broadway, the first national tour launched in Baltimore. It ran from September 2003 to June 2006. Only a month after the tour ended, a U.S. and Asian tour opened at Atlantic City's Harrah's Casino. It started as a shortened "casino version" of the show for six weeks in Atlantic City, then expanded to the full version of the show when the tour officially went on the road. After various engagements across many countries, it played its final performance on April 25, 2010.

More recently, a concert version premiered at the Hollywood Bowl for three days, directed and choreographed by original choreographer, Jerry Mitchell. The musical also ran on the Royal Caribbean International MS Oasis of the Seas ship.

The West End production of the musical opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 30, 2007, starring Michael Ball and Mel Smith.  The original creative team of the Broadway production reunited to mount the show. It closed on March 28, 2010, after nearly 1,000 performances, then started a tour across the United Kingdom. Shortly afterwards, on October 2, an Australian production opened in Melborne. The show was redesigned to incorporate giant LED screens with which the actors could interact.

In addition to England and Australia, Hairspray has seen many international productions emerge since 2004. The musical has played everywhere from Manila to South Africa and Switzerland to Peru.

Cultural Influence

  • The musical currently holds the record for most Olivier Award nominations in Britain with eleven.
  • A film adaptation of the stage musical version of Hairspray was released in 2007. It featured performances from John Travolta, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and Queen Latifah.
  • Hairspray has been translated into more than eight different languages.