Music superstar and stage and television actress Ariana Grande has been added to an already impressive cast for NBC’s “Hairspray Live!,” playing the role of Penny Pingleton, Tracy Turnblad’s incorrigible best friend.
Grande joins an announced stellar cast that includes Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough and exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio. The highly anticipated live musical production, to be telecast Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, will be executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to round out our all-star ‘Hairspray Live!’ cast with Ariana Grande, one of the biggest recording artists in the world,” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “She’s also a Broadway baby at heart, having debuted on Broadway when she was 15, and will be fantastic in the delightful role of Penny Pingleton. We look forward to her millions of fans seeing yet another side to this multifaceted performer and we welcome her to this incredible ensemble of artists.”
Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hairspray Live!” takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”
In 2013 Grande reached #1 on the Billboard Top 200 twice — first with her first solo debut, ”Yours Truly,” and also with its follow-up, ”My Everything.”
“Yours Truly” hit #1 on the iTunes Overall Top Songs chart while the platinum-selling ”My Everything” garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and spawned the 6x platinum hit ”Problem.” Moreover, it debuted at #1 in 85 countries, topping the iTunes Overall Top Songs and Pop Songs charts for four weeks.
Grande also became the first woman in history and first artist since Michael Jackson to simultaneously have three songs —”Problem,” ”Break Free” featuring Zedd, and ”Bang Bang” with Nicki Minaj and Jessie J — in the top six of the Digital Songs Chart. ”Bang Bang” went platinum and was Grammy nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. By the end of the year, Grande landed four songs in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, the most of any artist. In 2014 she had five Hot 100 Top 10 smashes.
Earlier this year Grande released her mega-anticipated third full-length album, ”Dangerous Woman,” which was driven by the title track that reached #1 on both iTunes Overall Top Songs Chart and Top Pop Songs Chart minutes after release. ”Dangerous Woman” also debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and earned her the distinction of becoming the first artist to debut on the chart with the lead single from her first three albums.
As an actress, Grande reprised her “Victorious” role as Cat Valentine in the 2013 Nickelodeon series “Sam & Cat.” Last year, Grande co-starred in the Fox series “Scream Queens.” In March, Grande was the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live,” marking her second appearance on the iconic late-night franchise.
On the stage, Grande was cast as a cheerleader in 2008 in the Broadway musical “13.”
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (producers of all of NBC’s live musicals and the upcoming “A Few Good Men Live!”) serve as executive producers of “Hairspray Live!” Live television director Alex Rudzinski will join director Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”) for “Hairspray Live!” Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell (“Kinky Boots,” “On Your Feet”) will serve as choreographer for the live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Smash” and Broadway’s upcoming “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).
“Hairspray Live!,” which will originate from Los Angeles, is produced by Universal Television.