Ariana Grande can’t wait to play Penny in NBC’s Hairspray Live!
The powerhouse singer will take on the role in the upcoming live holiday telecast, and Grande, who first saw the musical when she was a child, made assurances that the part -- a supporting one -- won’t be expanded to fit her star wattage and vocal ability.
“I don’t want to change anything about the role or how she develops,” Grande, 23, told reporters during Tuesday’s Television Critics Association press tour. “I just love Penny and it’s such a great honor to play her. I don’t want any special icing or parts.”
“One of the thrills is that Ariana wanted to play that role as written,” Hairspray Live! executive producer Neil Meron added, acknowledging the significance of waiting to have Grande show off her vocal range until one of the musical’s final numbers. “She felt it. Basically, she loved the fact that [Penny] held off those powerful pipes until the very end.”
Grande was adorably overcome with excitement sitting alongside the star-studded Hairspray Live! cast, which included Harvey Fierstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson and Derek Hough.
“I never thought it would actually happen,” she said of joining the live TV musical. “It’s kind of surreal for me to even be a part of this. I’m so grateful.”
Grande, who got her start on Broadway in the show 13, recalled seeing the original Hairspray musical when she was younger, calling that cast “incredible.”
“The fact that I’m here doing this today, sitting on this stage with such incredible people -- every time Harvey speaks, like my heart bursts. A light goes off inside my heart. Kristin Chenoweth -- we’re soulmates,” she marveled. “I don’t even know what’s happening. My theater geek inside, which is what I am, I can’t take it. It’s very overwhelming and very exciting. Penny’s been my favorite character since the start.”
“This is such a dream come true for me because at heart, theater is everything to me,” Grande added. “Pop music is so fun, but this is way much more fun. So much more.”
Earlier in the day, newcomer Maddie Baillio, who will play Tracy Turnblad, admitted she had her own fangirl moment when she met Grande just the other day at the table read.
“I was sitting in between Harvey Fierstein, who’s playing my mom Edna, and to the left of me was Ariana Grande. And at one point, she just took my hand and she just started holding it and I was freaking out,” Baillio adorably confessed to ET. “It was crazy!”
Hairspray Live! continues to lure a stellar ensemble cast, adding Sean Hayes and Rosie O’Donnell to the already-impressive ensemble, which also includes Derek Hough and Martin Short.
Hairspray Live! will air Dec. 7 on NBC.