Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Hairspray” The Broadway Musical

WOW! This is by far the best word to start off my description of the sparkling, perfectly cast production of “Hairspray”, the Broadway Musical, now onstage at Drury Lane Theatre. This “suburban production” is far superior to any other production of late in the Chicago area ( including the Broadway touring company). Under the skillful eye of Director/Choreographer Tammy Mader on a wonderful set designed by Marcus Stephens, this movie, turned into stage musical, turned into a movie musical with a book by Marc O’Donnell and Marc Shaiman ( who also did the lyrics with Scott Wittman) is a rousing  look  at the 1960’s in Baltimore and shows how plain ordinary people can fulfill their dreams if they take a chance.

It is a world of sterotypes and segregation. A world of changes in the musical scene and a time when television was very limited ( three stations in most major cities and black and white in boxes with “rabbit ears” that sat on a tv stand in our living rooms ( of all places!). In “Hairspray”, at this particular time, we might find ourselves paying homage to Dick Clark who brought teen-age dance television into our homes during this period ( He passed away just days before the opening of this production) as this is what makes our story come alive.

There is a show on local Baltimore TV, one that is getting lots of attention, The Corny Collins Show ( Rod Thomas is a pure delight in his role as the Baltimore “Dick Clark” and he never goes “over the top” making Corny one of the truly honest characters in a world that was more show than go during the 1960’s. Tracy Turnblad ( Lillian Castillo will knock your sox off with her talent- she can sing, dance and is one heck of an actress) is a high scholl student, a pleasingly plump one, that ha sone great dream- to appear on the Corny Collins Show and dance with  Link Larkin (Erik Altemus). What this story is about is how Tracy overcomes the many obstacles placed before her in making this dream come true. The audience finds itself rooting for her and her family, her mother, Edna ( played to the hilt of campiness by Michael Aaron Lindner, eat your heart out John Travolta), a large woman who spent her life just being a mother and laundress instead of being a dress designer and her father, Wilbur ( the hysterical Tim Kazurinsky), who owns a trick and magic shop .

What goes on during this 2 plus hours of music, merriment and dance is that we watch Tracy and her best friend ,Penny Pingleton ( the adorable Rebecca Pink, who truly shines in developing this character), get past the tryouts, meet and dance with the African Americans from “the other side of the tracks”, dethrone the dance queen, Amber ( Holly Laurent who makes nasty cute) , integrate the tv show ( upsetting Amber’s mother Velma played to the extreme by Keely Vasquez, the producer of said show) and bring the “plain” people to the forefront. Yes, this show is great fun, with songs like “Good Morning Baltimore”, “Welcome to the sixties”, “Hairspray”, “The Nicest Kid In Town” and “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now”, but of great importance is the story about people just being people and that Black and White, all teens just want to be teens and dance to the music as well as the importance of family, actual and extended.

The film was and still is a “cult” film. I am speaking to the original, non musical and the gimmick has always been that a man play the mother. While it is an odd concept , it works, still! and I have to tell you that Lindner is one heck of a big mama, with a deep heart.This cast fills the stage with talent. From the smallest roles on up, each member of this cast does all that one can expect to view , and then some,exceeding the expectations of what might be called “regional theater”- this is a good as it gets!.

In this large, talented cast, we find the likes of newcomer Joshlyn Lomax as Little Inez. This little girl at twelve could wow the judges on American Idol with her poise, cuteness and voice.Jon-Michael Reese as Seaweed can sure dance, Holly Stauder in her three roles is as cute as a button, The Dynamites ( Lisa Estridge,Donica Lynn and Alexis J. Rogers) will send chills up your spine with their great range and of course, we are privileged to hear Ms Felicia Fields in the role of Motormouth Maybelle. As always, Ms Fields and her voice are worth the price of a ticket alone, but this is a full ensemble show, where each dancer/singer/actor plays a part in making this a favorite.

To make a show like this a success, besides the set, director.choreographer, and stage talents, we need costumes ( perfectly designed by Kurt Alger, who also did the wigs , of which there are many, many), cool lighting affects ( Cahrles Cooper), perfect sound ( Ray Nardelli) and  propmaster ( Joel Lambie) who makes all the little items fit the puzzle. The icing on the cake is the musical direction by Malcolm Ruhl and I would like to note a little extra casting that I did not know even existed- “Pit Singers”- there are two singers,David Elliott and Drew Leigh Williams, who sit in the orchestra pit with music in hand ready to add to the voices on the stage where needed. These are the unknown elements to a production and they should also be proud to be able to say that they were a part of this wonderful production.

“Hairspray” The Broadway Musical will continue at the Drury Lane Theatre locatedat 100 Drury Lane ( just north of the Oakbrook Center) in Oakbrook through June 17th ( I would think, if they could, an extension will be announced) with performances as follows:

Wednesdays 1:30 p.m., Thursdays 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Fridays at 8:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.

Tickets range from as low as $35 to as high as $46 ( these are bargain prices for a show of this quality) and if you want to make a dinner/show evening, the prices start as low as $49.75- $68 and can be purchased at the theater box office, by phone at 630-530-0111, at Ticketmaster by calling 800-745-3000 or online at www.drurylaneoakbrook.com

Plenty of free parking and easy highway access makes this theater a perfect spot to get suburban pricing for Broadway quality productions. Enjoy!

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