It’s an hour before the live broadcast of NBC’s musical “Hairspray Live,” and the show-within-the show is going through last-minute rehearsals. Darren Criss, who’ll be serving as the night’s “multi-platform host,” is running up and down Baltimore (a.k.a. New York) Street on Universal’s famed backlot, practicing the opening that will kick off the evening’s events. Just down the street, director Kenny Leon can be heard giving the cast a last-minute pep talk: “We’re on sacred ground,” he tells them.
Fresh off his starring run in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at L.A.’s Pantages Theater, Criss was chosen for his appeal to the target demo for the musical. “We got really lucky,” Rob Hayes, NBC’s EVP of digital, tells Variety. “He’s a massive Broadway fan.” Criss was tasked with hosting several Facebook Live hits throughout the night, which went on to draw 2.8 million unique viewers. “His role is to be a surrogate for the fans,” adds Hayes. “He’s the viewer.”