Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hairspray"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Hairspray"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bay Colony's current show is "Hairspray". The original Broadway show won 8 Tony Awards, opened on August 15, 2002, ran for over six years and 2,642 performances, closing on January 4, 2009. "Hairspray" is a 1960's musical based on the 1988 John Waters film which starred Ricki Lake and Divine. The show is set in Baltimore in 1962 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 claim a spot on the Corny Collins Show, a popular television 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 Collins dance show has made stars out the white kids from the local school but the show has "Negro Day" once a month due to the bigoted producer, Velma Von Tussle who uses her position to promote her untalented daughter, Amber. Tracy who keeps getting detention from the principal for having big hair, meets Seaweed who teaches her the dance moves she needs to win a spot on Corny's show. His mother, Motormouth Maybelle hosts the "Negro Day" on TV and to thank Seaweed for his help, Tracy is determined to segregate the show. Tracy is also helped along the way by her mother, Edna, a hardworking 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 and she wins the Miss Hairspray contest defeating Amber and her bitchy mother as well as integrating the dance show, proving "You Can't Stop the Beat". Director/choreographer Dori Bryan-Ployer knows how to put together a smash hit musical with high powered energy from start to finish with many show stopping moments along the way. The dance numbers are dazzling while the singing is sensational with expert musical direction from Brett Hinkel. The multitude of gorgeous colorful costumes of the 1960's are by Amy Van Dell. This superb show is richly rewarded with a standing ovation by the entire audience at the curtain call.

Dori blocks this huge show beautifully and her dance numbers from the 1960's are terrific and are executed marvelously by her multitalented 25 member cast while Brett's orchestra compliments the vocalists splendidly. Some of Dori's best dances are the dancing opening of Act 1 "Good, Morning Baltimore", "Nicest Kids in Town" and Act 2, "The Big Dollhouse" where all the women are in jail. Brett not only conducts the 10 piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards.The fabulous sets by Michael Texeiria, include a jail cell, a sliding dance floor, a giant hairspray can. Ed DiMarzio does the sound and Mike does the lighting while Christine Eddy and Matt Reingold handle the numerous props. Leading this cast is Helena Rabasco who is perfect as Tracy Turnblad. She makes this overweight girl into a person the audience can easily identify with and gains their love and admiration with her spunky and heartfelt portrayal. Her powerhouse voice excels in her many numbers including "Good Morning Baltimore" which opens the show, "I Can Hear the Bells'', a fall in love at first sight love song and "You Can't Stop the Beat" where she triumphs against all odds. Helena not only sings wonderfully but dances up a storm. This young girl acts her heart out in this role, showing her prowess in this huge role. Helena is much thinner than Tracy usually is and wore extra padding to look 50 pounds heavier. I recently reviewed her as Kim in "Miss Saigon" last October. Michael DiMascolo stars as Edna Turnblad, Tracy's loving mother. He is a hoot in this drag role, stealing many scenes with his one liners and double takes. Michael who is a handsome man in real life, plays a homely broad in this show. He gets to sing and dance in "Welcome to the '60's" (with three gals Shaynah Barnes, Caroline Kautsire and Tonya Rabouin singing and strutting like the Supremes) "Big Blonde & Beautiful" and "The Big Dollhouse" where all the women in town are in jail and at the end of this number Edna sings "For me" like Mama Rose in "Gypsy". One of the funniest numbers is a vaudeville soft shoe called "Timeless to Me" which Michael does with Steve Dooner who plays Wilbur. Their adlibs and patter during this number as well as their sing and dancing stop the show with its brilliance. Michael last played Tom Collins in "Rent" for Bay Colony. Steve does a great job as the loving and supportive husband and father who wants both of his girls dreams to come true. He adds a lot of humor to the show in this lovable comic role. They harmonize beautifully on this song, too.

The most powerful voice in the show belongs to Renee Hero who plays Motormouth Maybelle. Her unbelievable voice soars off the charts with her bluesy Gospel numbers. Her first one "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" where she encourages Edna to appear on TV closes Act 1 and her second number "I Know Where I've Been" which describes her experiences as a black woman, encouraging Tracy and everyone else not to give up. This powerhouse number stops the show with a long and well deserved ovation. Brava. Michael Hammond plays Corny Collins, a Dick Clark type of character who can sing and dance marvelously. His strong baritone voice leads the chorus in The Nicest Kids in Town", "The Madison" a sophomore dance where Corny discovers Tracy and "Hairspray" where Tracy wins the contest. Michael does a terrific job as the dance host who is unafraid to stand up to his pain in the ass producer. He also shows off his strong dancing prowess in this show. Young good looking dark haired Joshua Kenney plays Link Larkin, Tracy's dancing dreamboat. Link is an Elvis wannabe who is using the dance show to be discovered. Josh has a dynamic voice, he and Helena sing lovely duets called "It Takes Two" and "Without Love". The villains of this show are the conceited, egotistical Von Tussles. Paula Markcowicz is excellent as Velma, the bitchy, slutty mother who will sleep with and blackmail anyone who tries to get in the way of making her untalented daughter a star. Her phenomenal singing voice shines in the sextet number "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now" and in the tango like song "Miss Baltimore Crabs'' where she proclaims all women have to be beautiful to get anywhere in the world. Her snotty, spoiled daughter, Amber is well played by Jaclyn Hochreiter. Unlike Amber, Jaclyn is very talented in real life, but as this spoiled brat she gets to throw temper tantrums, dance and sing, leading the chorus in "Cooties". Playing Tracy's shy best friend, Penny is Hayley Sheaff. She sings and dances up a storm in the sextet number, the jail number "The Big Dollhouse", Without Love" and the finale where she is transformed into a hot looking babe ala Sandy in "Grease" and exclaims "I'm a pretty girl, mama" another line from "Gypsy" said by Louise. Penny's true love in the show is Seaweed played by Chauncey Moore.This young man possesses a powerful voice which he uses in "Run and Tell That", Without Love and the finale. Chauncey is also a dynamite dancer, too. I last reviewed him in "The Buddy Holly Story" in September. Some other roles include Bill Cunningham playing the gay dress maker, Mr. Pinky, Kevin Flynn plays Harriman F. Spritzer, the owner of Ultra Clutch Hairspray while Laura Frye plays Penny's bigoted mom, Prudy. Jennifer Rosen does a great job as Seaweed's dancing sibling Little Inez. She is sassy and fits the role perfectly. The chorus members also excel with their vocal and dancing abilities, too. So for a trip back to the fun and carefree days of the 1960's, be sure to catch this spectacular show, "Hairspray".

"Hairspray" (4 - 13 February)
BAY COLONY PRODUCTIONS
@ Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1(508)543-ARTS

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