The cast of 'Hairspray Live!'.

Comcast NBCUniversal to Offer Inclusive Viewing Experience During National Broadcast of 'Hairspray Live!'

In addition to providing accessible content like Hairspray Live!, Comcast also has developed technologies that help people with disabilities enjoy entertainment independently.

Following last year’s successful effort to add video description services to NBC’s musical production The Wiz Live!, Comcast NBCUniversal will continue its commitment to accessible programming by offering video description with NBC’s national broadcast of Hairspray Live! on December 7 at 8pm.

Video description is a narration track that is included between the natural pauses in dialogue that describes the visual elements of a show or movie. Since NBC’s annual musical is broadcast live, the video descriptions for Hairspray Live! will be created and delivered in real time, offering a truly unique experience and ensuring that all fans will be able to enjoy the spectacular sets, elaborate costumes, and dynamic dance numbers of the holiday event of the season. 

"We are delighted that this highly-anticipated performance of Hairspray will include live description, which allows people with vision loss to fully enjoy the magic of television," said Kirk Adams, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. "Comcast NBCUniversal is a trailblazer in the area of accessibility and digital inclusion; this is yet another example of their commitment to ensuring people with vision loss have equal access to entertainment and news."

The described broadcast of Hairspray Live! will be available across the country, wherever SAP (Secondary Audio Program) audio feeds are available.  To deliver the service, Comcast and NBC are partnering with Descriptive Video Works, an industry leader in the delivery of quality described video and audio description for people with visual disabilities. The company has provided more than 1,000 hours of Live Description, including 15 primetime telecasts of the Rio Summer Olympic Games.

In addition to providing accessible content like Hairspray Live!, Comcast also has developed technologies that help people with disabilities enjoy entertainment independently. For example, customers who have the company’s Xfinity X1 platform now have access to a talking guide, a voice-enabled TV menu and interface, and a voice controlled TV remote control, a device that simplifies the search process.

"The combination of accessible content and technology is not only a benefit to the millions of people, like myself, who have a visual disability, but also underscores our broader commitment towards making entertainment enjoyable for everyone," said Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President, Accessibility for Comcast Cable.  "I’ll tune in Wednesday night and thanks to video description, and the technology tools that compliment it, I’m going to enjoy the show just like everyone else and be part of the conversation that follows.  And that’s the definition of inclusion."

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Hairspray Live! takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Plump 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, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white Corny Collins Show.

The all-star cast includes Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Ephraim Sykes, exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio and special guest stars Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes, Andrea Martin and Rosie O’Donnell.

Hairspray Live! will bring back the creative talents of The Wiz Live! director Kenny Leon (Tony winner, A Raisin in the Sun) and script adaptor Harvey Fierstein (four-time Tony winner, Torch Song Trilogy, Hairspray, and La Cage aux Folles).  Hairspray Live! will also enlist the original Broadway adaptation’s choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, On Your Feet), original songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Smash and Broadway’s upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), two-time Emmy Award-winning live television director Alex Rudzinski, award-winning costume designer Mary Vogt (Kong: Skull Island, Men in Back), music director Lon Hoyt (On Your Feet, Hairspray on Broadway and feature film) and award-winning production designer Derek McLane (Academy Awards, Beautiful). 

Hairspray Live!  is produced by Universal Television.

Hairspray Live! premieres Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET and PT.