Hairspray cast starts to gel

John Travolta in drag! Queen Latifah singing again! Hairspray is finally getting going

Like the recent release of The Producers, Hairspray has been a film, a successful stage musical and now a movie musical. Yet unlike Mel Brooks’ laugh-fest, it hasn’t had such a smooth ride back to the screen. Directors have come and gone, scripts have been talked up and shot down and the film has languished in development.

But now New Line finally has most of the cast in place for the 1962-set story of chubby teenager Tracey Turnblad and her quest to score a place on a dance show. And it means John Travolta will be slipping into a dress to play Edna, Tracey’s downtrodden mother. Yes, if you’ve ever wanted to see Travolta in drag, now is your chance. He’s been the subject of a tug-of-casting between Hairspray and the producers of the Dallas film remake, who still want him to play JR Ewing. Apparently he’s still interested in chomping cigars while wearing a 10-gallon hat, but Dallas’ production schedule will have to scoot out of the way if it still hopes to get him.

And Queen Latifah is now also confirmed as playing Motormouth Maybelle, dance show host and civil rights campaigner. She signed on thanks to the presence of Bringing Down The House director Adam Shankman who will put the cast through their paces.

"This is our dream cast for the film, and bringing Travolta back into a musical after 30 years is so gratifying," New Line co-chairman Michael Lynne bragged to Variety. "They were our genuine first choices for the film. It is a challenge, trying to reinvent a stage show that was a reinvention of a film. The right casting is a big part of that."

One problem remains: finding the right fresh face to play Edna. New Line suits had better hope they find someone before the film’s planned shoot this September in Baltimore and Toronto.