BWW Reviews: MTW's HAIRSPRAY Lasts Longer with More Body

November 1
2:36 PM 2011


book by Mark O'Donnell & Thomas Meehan
music by Marc Shaiman; lyrics by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
choreographed by Lee Martino
directed by Larry Raben
Musical Theatre West (MTW)
through November 13

(photo credit: Ken Jacques)

Hairspray, can't get enough of that Hairspray! 60s girls lacquered up their dos - hair, that is, with oodles and oodles of it until their hair was a sticky, gooey mess; well, the musical of the same name has been seen close to a half dozen times in the last several months, and few seem to tire of it...why? It's a stroll down memory lane, it's nostalgia... that is pleasant - even when it's about issues that aren't... like segregation, it's a far cry from the unpleasantness in today's world, so it goes down easier... and, it has all those crazy song and dance tunes of the era...well, an original score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, but one that sounds exactly like the hit tunes of the 60s. Musical Theatre West's (MTW) current production of the now classic Hairspray is about the best there is or has been, bar none! With an evenly spectacular cast, super direction by Larry Raben and stupendous choreography by Lee Martino, its star shines ever so brightly.

Without a flaw to be witnessed, Victoria Morgan (Tracy), Jim J Bullock (her mother Edna), Barry Pearl (her father Wilbur) and the rest of the cast just sparkle. Morgan's role is a hefty one to be sure, no pun intended, and she is definitely up to the tremendous amount of dancing and singing - is she ever off the stage? - that she is called upon to perform. Bullock has never been better, letting all the sweetness inside of him pour out as the caring mother, and Pearl, never funnier, making Wilbur stand out as an interestingly eccentric character, something that Drew Carey failed to do with the role while at the Hollywood Bowl last August. Derek Klena, such a wonderful actor and singer, comes through triple time here, with his dancing totally on a par with the other disciplines. Gwen Stewart as Motormouth is glorious; Tracy Lore, the most naturally witchy Thelma Von Tussle for the record. Praise as well to Todrick D. Hall, a smokin' Seaweed, Erin Watkins as Penny, and Lauren Smolka as Amber. Karla J. Franko is hysterical in not one, not two, but three roles as Prudy, Penny's mom, the girls' gym coach and the warden in the women's prison. She makes each one distinct and is a hoot in the process! Last but never least is David Engel who brings so much color and suave, sophisticated good nature to Corny Collins.

Raben and Martino's work is flawless and the whole show, an ode to the 60s and to those who stood up to make a difference in the way we think and live, is an exuberant, joyous dessert. MTW's Hairspray is ultra clutch, ranking among the best of the crop.


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About the Author

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his seventh year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page. He received a BWW Award for Excellence in 2014 as one of the top ten Regional Editors across the globe.

Don is also an author/playwright and recently published Books I, II & III of his children's fable Two Worlds Together: Donnelly's Greatest Christmas. You may purchase copies of the two volumes at Two one-acts in a collection called Holiday Madness were just published, also on Both the story and plays are available on kindle as well as in paperback.


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