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

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In the "80s musical film, drag perprevious and also regular Waters collaborator Divine played the role of shy mother Edna Turnblad to Ricki Lake"s Tracy. When the film was adjusted for Broadmethod and premiered in 2002. Fierstein auditioned and also won the role for the Broadmethod manufacturing via Waters" blessing, according to The Advocate in 2002, a casting alternative that appeared to cement the heritage of Edna being played by a male. "From the moment they available the function I kbrand-new that Edna was not a drag function," Fierstein created in Playbill in 2003. "While paying homage to this wonderful perprevious , I necessary to create an Edna all my own."


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But Waters wrote in Variety in 2007 that also he is unsure of exactly how the tradition began. "Edna Turnblad isn’t a drag-queen component," the director wrote in the publication. "It has actually come to be a legacy for males to play her, as through Peter Pan, where it is always played by a womale. Why, I don’t know. It offers it an edge." According to The Baton Rouge Advocate, though, tbelow is no definite dominion that Edna must be played by a male. The New York Times reported that the Broadway version director Jack O"Brien said that Edna is "a female character whose DNA ... requires that she be played by a male — the cosmic opposite of Peter Pan."

The heritage carried on through actors such as Michael McKean, Bruce Vilanch, Blake Hammond, and also George Wendt playing Edna on Broadway. In the 2007 movie version of Hairspray, John Travolta took on the role, which was a task the Grease actor took very seriously, he told the New York Times. "I didn’t want it to be ‘John Travolta plays Edna,’" he shelp to the newspaper in 2007. "That’s not amazing.

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It had to be something I might go all the way through, disappear in, choose I did in the Bill Clinton role in Main Colors or in Saturday Night Fever."


The 2007 movie variation was created by Craig Zadan and also Neil Meron, who are also 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 proceed the tradition of the musical, which has ongoing years later in the NBC live variation of the musical.

Though this casting choice might be problematic depending upon exactly how the character is illustrated, and also Newsweek questioned whether it"s naturally misogynistic, Hairspray Live! appears to view it as more of a heritage. And considering his background via the role, Fierstein was a solid choice to play Edna in the NBC musical.