Since 2013, NBC has actually made its live musical right into a December heritage that viewers look forward to yearly — and also Wednesday night"s Hairspray Live! is no exemption. The present likewise proceeds one more time-honored legacy of the musical itself: the role of Edna Turnblad is played by a male — Harvey Fierstein reprises the character he played in the Broadmeans variation and also for which he won a Tony. But why is Tracy"s mother constantly played by a male in Hairspray and also not a woman? The beginnings of this spreading option deserve to be traced to the original 1988 John Waters movie Hairspray that started it all.

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In the "80s musical film, drag performer and also regular Waters collaborator Divine played the duty of shy mother Edna Turnblad to Ricki Lake"s Tracy. When the film was adjusted for Broadmethod and premiered in 2002. Fierstein auditioned and won the duty for the Broadmethod manufacturing with Waters" blessing, according to The Advocate in 2002, a spreading option that seemed to cement the legacy of Edna being played by a male. "From the moment they offered the function I kbrand-new that Edna was not a drag role," Fierstein composed in Playbill in 2003. "While paying homage to this wonderful perprevious , I necessary to develop an Edna all my own."


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But Waters wrote in Variety in 2007 that even he is uncertain of exactly how the heritage started. "Edna Turnblad isn’t a drag-queen part," the director composed in the publication. "It has actually become a tradition for males to play her, as with Peter Pan, wright here it is constantly played by a woguy. Why, I don’t understand. It provides it an edge." According to The Baton Rouge Advocate, though, tright here is no definite ascendancy that Edna must be played by a male. The New York Times reported that the Broadmethod variation director Jack O"Brien shelp that Edna is "a female character whose DNA ... requires that she be played by a male — the cosmic oppowebsite of Peter Pan."

The tradition lugged on via actors such as Michael McKean, Bruce Vilanch, Blake Hammond, and also George Wendt playing Edna on Broadmethod. In the 2007 movie variation of Hairspray, John Travolta took on the duty, which was a job the Grease actor took very seriously, he told the New York Times. "I didn’t desire it to be ‘John Travolta plays Edna,’" he sassist to the newspaper in 2007. "That’s not interesting.

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It had actually to be something I might go all the method via, disshow up in, prefer I did in the Bill Clinton duty in Main Colors or in Saturday Night Fever before."


The 2007 movie version was created by Craig Zadan and also Neil Meron, that are additionally the executive producers of NBC"s Hairspray Live! In 2007, the Chicago Tribune reported that Meron sassist Travolta was actors as Edna in order to continue the tradition of the musical, which has actually ongoing years later on in the NBC live version of the musical.

Though this casting alternative can be problematic depending on just how the character is illustrated, and also Newsweek doubted whether it"s inherently misogynistic, Hairspray Live! appears to watch it as even more of a tradition. And considering his history via the duty, Fierstein was a solid alternative to play Edna in the NBC musical.