Reviews ran hot and cold for NBC’s “Hairspray Live,” which aired Wednesday night. But the notices were more positive for Bainbridge Island product Dove Cameron: The critics who noticed her seemed to like her.
The live-musical telecast, the fourth undertaken by NBC, was in many opinions the strongest so far. But it scuttled itself with many, many commercial breaks, lengthened by “behind-the-scenes” reports, that robbed it of its continuity and momentum.
I thought the New York Times’ review put it best: “NBC lassoed some talented performers with fine singing voices but sacrificed cohesion by cramming the evening with too much interstitial fluff.” The Times’ review, incidentally, made no mention of Cameron (at front in the blue party dress in the photo below), who played mean-girl Amber Von Tussle.
Newsday’s review made it sound like the reviewer would like to have seen more of her: “The great Kristin Chenoweth played Velma Von Tussle, though more as a Rockette than a racist. (Dove Cameron as her daughter, Amber, was good, but barely present).”
Hollywood Life’s Dina Sartore-Bodo seemed the most enthusiastic of any of the reviewers surveyed: “Speaking of duos that defied expectations, who didn’t love the chemistry between Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth?! The Von Tussles haven’t looked this good since the original show in 2003!” That was the sentiment, although less gushing, in ew.com’s review: Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron played the demonically blonde Von Tussles, a perfect pairing of mean-girl matriarch and fat-shaming teen fascist.”
Variety was quick to point out Cameron’s draw to younger viewers, owing to her successes on the Disney Channel — most notably playing both title characters in the sitcom “Liv and Maddie:” “It helped that Disney alums Ariana Grande, Dove Cameron and Garrett Clayton are all bona fide stars to the youngest members of the audience.”
Other review snippets:
USA Today: Those were just two standouts in what may be the strongest cast a TV musical has gathered. Veterans like Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Derek Hough and Martin Short blended perfectly with Ariana Grande, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton and Ephraim Sykes — with each having a moment to shine.
The Hollywood Reporter: “The imbalance (between the show’s veteran stars and younger cast members) turned what has always been a tremendously entertaining musical into a lumbering vehicle, made worse by awkward ’60s-style “live” commercials and deadening segues to an over-enthusiastic Darren Criss with the studio audience.” Cameron, though, earned the terse positive “strong” in a parenthetical item.
Washington Post: “Dove Cameron … seemed particularly well-cast as Tracy’s nemesis, the bratty Amber Von Tussle.
St. Louis Post Dispatch: “Dove Cameron … was a great mean girl.”