Monday, March 06, 2006


News like this just makes my heart sink.

Being a devoted lover of what was once known as Charm City, I also almost always adore John Waters. Though it's far from his grossest or most spirited work, "Hairspray" has remained my favorite of his films. But even I have to wonder, how many lives can it have?

Along with the classic movie, there is the megahit musical, which I had the pleasure of seeing on Broadway. No one will ever be able to replace Divine, but Harvey Feirstein did a fine job standing in as Edna Turnblad.

Now, however, in the vein of "The Producers," "Hairspray" is getting a third life, as a movie version of the musical (is your head spinning too, or is it just me?)

The bad, no, I mean horrendous, news is that, according to Variety, John Travolta is set to play our beloved Edna. Why is this so bad? Tell me one time in the last 20 years or so that John Travolta has been remotely funny. I don't even count "Get Shorty," which I found to be mildly amusing at best.

Even worse is the news that additional singing and dancing scenes will be added to beef up Travolta's character. Heresy. My view of the world may be warped, but I consider Waters' vision of "Hairspray" to be a small classic, not to be tampered with by charlatans. I just hope he got a fat check for all this.

The news from Variety, however, wasn't all bad. Queen Latifah has apparently signed on to play Motor Mouth Maybelle, the dance show host turned civil rights activist played in the movie by Ruth Brown. Latifah was great in "Chicago," and she has just the right spirit to pull this off.

Even better is that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, are on board and will write some new songs for the movie. And, at least part of the movie will be filmed in beautiful Baltimore. It is scheduled for release in summer 2007.

Still to be determined is who will play our heroine, young Tracy Turnblad. She may be too old by now, and who knows if she can sing or not, but I would see Thora Birch as the perfect choice, or even better, Marissa Jaret Winokur from Broadway.

Now, if someone would just take out Mr. Travolta ... I'm not a wealthy man by any means, and I'm planning to blow most of what I have going to the World Cup with my brother, but you will have my undying gratitude. That and 50 cents, as they say, can still buy you a copy of The Telegraph.

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