This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Fourteen years after it debuted on Broadway — 28 years after the debut of the John Waters film that inspired it — NBC's choice of "Hairspray" is at the least a little bit brave.

The Tony-winning musical is bright, catchy and funny, but it also has something to say.

"It's a really joyous and funny show set in Baltimore about a young girl who just wants to dance on television," said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. "And then she unwittingly becomes an advocate for inclusion and diversity."

At a time when white-supremacist groups are celebrating the election of Donald Trump as president, "Hairspray Live!" sings and dances its way to a ringing endorsement of integration and a denunciation of racism.

"What's amazing is that the script hasn't changed, but it's still very relevant to today," said Derek Hough, the Utah-raised entertainer who stars as Corny Collins, the host of a local teen dance show who supports the integration of his program in 1962. "It's just a fantastic story with a great message — but also covered in glitz and color and campiness and fun and love. That's what makes it so special."

Harvey Fierstein, who won a 2002 Tony for his performance as Edna Turnblad in the Broadway production of "Hairspray," returns to the role. And, as he did with "The Wiz Live," Fierstein also adapted the script for the TV production.

The story remains the same — "Hairspray" is still the story of teenager Tracy Turnblad (newcomer Maddie Baillio), who dreams of dancing on "The Corny Collins Show" and bucks the Powers That Be that want the show to remain all-white. When she gets a chance, she becomes an overnight local celebrity — and, in addition to trying to win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin (Garrett Clayton), Tracy becomes a champion for integration in segregated Baltimore.

Velma Von Tussle (Kristin Chenoweth), the producer of the show who manipulates events to ensure her daughter, Amber (Dove Cameron), is named Miss Teenage Hairspray — is still a racist. And it's still the story of an interracial romance between Penny Pingleton (Ariana Grande) and Seaweed Stubbs (Ephraim Sykes).

The racial angle of "Hairspray" definitely will not be muted for the TV telecast, airing Wednesday at 7 p.m. on KSL-Ch. 5.

"You don't update history. You tell history," Fierstein said. "You're as true to it as you can be.

"We can change laws, but the war is to change hearts. And nothing does that like song does. Music brings us all together in a way that words just don't. And when you see a story like this, which is told in such good humor and with such warm heart and such good purpose, I think it will do wonders. I hope so. That's our aim."

The production team includes original composers Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman, original choreographer Jerry Mitchell and several members of the team that produced the 2007 movie — including executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

"Hairspray Live!" will be "kind of a hybrid" of the stage and movie versions of the musical, Zadan said. One song from the original stage version ("The Big Dollhouse") will not be included, but three ("Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," "Velma's Revenge" and "Cooties") that didn't make the 2007 movie version will return.

Two songs written for that 2007 movie ("Ladies' Choice" and "Come So Far") will be performed in "Hairspray Live!", but a third ("New Girl in Town") will not.

The cast includes Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad and Andrea Martin as Prudy Pingleton. There will be appearances by Billy Eichner, Rosie O'Donnell and Sean Hayes — along with cameos by Ricki Lake (the original Tracy in the 1988 movie) and Marissa Jaret Winokur (who originated the role of Tracy on Broadway).

The producers got a big name in Grande to play Penny, but they did not add a big song for the character.

"It's a dream come true for me," Grande said. "So I don't want to change anything about the role or how she develops."

"She loved the fact that she kind of held off those powerful pipes until the very end," Meron said. "And there is some sort of artistic merit in terms of Ariana doing that — in terms of the surprise for her audience."

NBC started the current live-musicals-on-TV trend — "The Sound of Music" in 2013, "Peter Pan" in 2014 and "The Wiz" in 2015 — but "Hairspray" will be different. It's not being done in New York, and it's not being done on a single indoor stage.

"Hairspray Live!" will be performed on the Universal Studios backlot, on multiple soundstages as well as several outdoor locations.

If that sounds like Fox's production of "Grease Live" that aired back in January, that's not a coincidence.

"In reinventing this form, we were figuring it out as we went along, starting with 'Sound of Music,' " said Meron, who readily admitted, "We learned things from 'Grease' " — which he and Zadan did not produce.

And they've brought in director Alex Rudzinski, who helmed Fox's critically praised version of "Grease" back in January. (He directs with Kenny Leon, who also helmed "The Wiz Live!" and won a Tony for directing "A Raisin in the Sun.")

"I'm hugely excited to be able to use the Universal backlot as a space," Rudzinski said. "In fact, what I can tell you is that 'Hairspray's' going to be using a much bigger area of the backlot than we ever did on 'Grease,' so it's very ambitious in terms of what we're doing.

"I think that's going to be just an energy of scale that's really going to make the show immersive for the viewers and make it really fun to watch."

Fun that also makes you think.

"I'm just happy to do this particular story at this particular time in our country when race relations are where they are," Leon said. "And I think this would be a fun time and a subtle way with a feel-good musical to talk about the beauty of all of us being together."

Twitter: @ScottDPierce —

'Hairspray Live!'

NBC's production of "Hairspray Live!" airs Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. on KSL-Ch. 5. That's a one-hour tape-delay in this time zone.