Theatre Mirror Reviews - "HAIRSPRAY"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Little Theater of Fall River's opening show of their season is "Hairspray." The Broadway show won 8 Tony Awards and is based on the 1988 John Waters film which starred Divine and Ricki Lake. The show is set in 1962 in Baltimore and is about teenager, Tracy Turnblad, a large girl with big dreams and even bigger hair who has an abundant joie de vivre and rhythm in every inch of her body. She will do whatever it takes to win a spot on the Corny Collins Show, a popular TV dance show, win the heart of Link Larkin. the show's resident dreamboat and turn the town upside down in her efforts to racially integrate television. The bigoted producer, Velma Von Tussle has "negro day" once a month and uses the show to promote her untalented daughter, Amber. Tracy meets Seaweed in detention and he teaches her the dance moves to win a spot on the show. To thank him for his help, Tracy decides to help integrate the show so Seaweed's mom, Motormouth Maybelle can appear on it more than once a month. Tracy is helped along the way by her hard working mother, Edna, a woman of vast proportions and enormous heart and her father, Wilbur who runs a joke shop called Har-Dee-Har-Hut. Tracy's dreams are fulfilled. wins the Miss Hairspray contest, defeats Amber and her bitchy mother and integrates the dance show, proving "You Can't Stop the Beat." Director Paula Arruda knows how to put together a smash musical hit musical with high energy and excellent blocking. She recently won the Moss Hart Award for directing "Fiddler" at Little Theatre last year. There are many show stopping moments along the way as well as dazzling dance numbers by Tricia Rodriquez, Nina Calvo and Raylin Medina and sensational musical direction by Bobby Perry with an electrifying 10 piece orchestra.

Leading this huge cast is Emily Buckley as Tracy. She makes this overweight girl into someone the audience can readily identify with and gains their love and admiration with her spunky and heartfelt portrayal. Her powerful voice excels in many numbers including "Good Morning Baltimore" which opens the show, "I Can Hear Bells", a fall in love at first sight number, and "You Can't Stop the Beat" when triumphs over all odds. Emily not only sings wonderfully but dances up a storm in this role, too. Jonathan Keene stars as Edna Turnblad, Tracy's fun loving overweight mother usually played in drag by a man. He is a hoot in this role, stealing many a scene with his one liners and double takes. Jonathan gets to sing and dance in "Welcome to the 60's" with three girls strutting their stuff like the Supremes, "Big Blonde and Beautiful" and "The Big Dollhouse" where all the women in town are in jail. At the end of this song Jon belts out "Like Me" ala Mama Rose from "Gypsy." One of his funniest numbers is "Timeless to Me", a vaudeville soft show which Jon does with Jeff Belanger as Wilbur. Their adlibs and patter during this number are brilliantly done as they stop the show with their rendition. Jeff does a terrific job as the loving and supportive husband and father who wants both of his girls' dreams to come true.

Dark and handsome, Ryan Durkey plays Corny Collins, a young Dick Clark type who can sing and dance. His strong baritone voice leads the chorus in "Nicest Kids is Town", "The Madison" where he discovers Tracy and "Hairspray" when Tracy wins the contest. Ryan does an excellent job as the TV host who stands up to his pain in the ass producer. Jacob Zentis plays Link Larsen, Tracy's dancing dreamboat. Link is a wannabe Elvis who is using the TV show as a stepping stone to fame and fortune. He becomes a better person when he falls in love with Tracy. Jacob handles the transition wonderfully. His voice is heard in duets with Emily called "It Takes Two" and "without Love." The villains of this show are the conceited and egotistical, Velma and Amber Von Tussle. Nadine Goulet is fantastic as this dragon lady who runs roughshod over everyone at the TV station. She plays this bitchy, slutty mother to the hilt, sleeping with anyone to make her untalented daughter famous. Her strong voice is heard in "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now" sextet and in the tango like "Baltimore Crabs" where she proclaims all women have to be beautiful to get anywhere in this world. Her snotty, spoiled daughter Amber is played by Shauna Brosky. Amber lusts after Link throughout the show and finally gets her comeuppance with her mother at the close of the show.

The most amazing voice in this show belongs to Marsha Furtado as Maybelle. Her powerful voice soars off the charts with her bluesy, gospel numbers. Her first one is "Big, Black and Beautiful" when she encourages Edna to appear on TV and her second dynamic number is "I Know Where I've Been" which stops the show with well deserved applause. Playing Tracy's best friend, Penny is the terrific Holly Cardoza who played Hodel in "Fiddler" last year. She is a triple threat performer who delivers the goods in this role. Holly sings and dances up a storm in the sextet number, the jail number "The Big Dollhouse", "Without Love" is fabulous and in the finale where she is transformed into a hot looking babe. She utters another line from "Gypsy", I'm a pretty girl, Mama. Motormouth's son Seaweed is wonderfully played by Jay Nova. This is his debut onstage and he delivers the goods as Seaweed. Jay's marvelous voice is heard in "Run & Tell That" and "Without You" with Holly. Ken Kawa and Vanessa Medeiros do a tremendous job with their multiple roles in this show. Ken as the principal, the dressmaker and the owner of the hairspray while Vanessa plays Penny's bigoted mother, gym teacher and the prison matron. Little Inez is excellently played with sass and verve by Ava Russell who also shows off her strong dancing ability, too. The chorus members excel with their singing and dancing ability in this musical extravaganza. So for a trip back to the fun and carefree days of the 1960's, be sure to catch this dynamite production of "Hairspray" in Fall River. Tell them Tony sent you.

HAIRSPRAY (13 to 16 October)
Little Theatre of Fall River, BCC, 777 Elsbree St, Fall River, MA
1(508)675-1852 or

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide