BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY in Concert with Baltimore Symphony Featuring John Waters as Narrator

The original film "Hairspray" premiered in 1988, became a Tony-winning musical in 2002, and five years later the musical was made into a film. NBC has chosen it for another "LIVE" musical presentation on December 7, 2016 where thank goodness there will be a live audience.

I remember fondly the very first time I heard the Marc Shaiman music and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman lyrics. Every summer "Broadway in Bryant Park" presents free musical performances during lunch time. I arrived to video the cast of MAMMA MIA! performing . Prior to their presentation, was the cast of HAIRSPRAY who were still in the middle of rehearsals. I knew then this would become a blockbuster as they sang three numbers. At the end, they did "You Can't Stop the Beat" and the crowd went nuts! Even the cast of MAMMA MIA! was singing along and dancing to this infectious song. What a thrill it was to see Shaiman join the cast and sing along.

It was back in February of 2013 that the Baltimore Symphony first presented a concert version of the hit musical about race in Baltimore in the 1960's . I called that evening "One for the Ages".

Well, the latest version was no exception. The boisterous crowd gave HAIRSPRAY author and local legend John Waters a tumultuous ovation when he first entered the stage and demonstrated his wry smile. You couldn't have a better narrator. The ovations continued all night until the confetti came down during the curtain call.

BSO Pops Conductor was brilliant conducting the Baltimore Symphony and you could tell the musicians were having a great time. They sounded great. This was the biggest production of the BSO's Centennial season and they hit it out of the park.

Returning to Baltimore from the 2013 concert were the talented Paul Vogt as Edna Turnblad and the amazing, Tony-winning actress Beth Leavel in the pivotal role of Velma von Tussle. Her rendition of "Miss Baltimore Crab" will be remembered forever.

Remember Norm Peterson from the hit television series "Cheers"? What a great job he did as Edna's husband Wilbur. His duet with Vogt "You're Timeless to Me" brought the house down.

Playing the leading role of Tracy was the wonderful Laura Marie Rondnella. She was as good as any Tracy I've seen. Her heartthrob Linc was Matthew Scott. NaTasha Yvette Williams shined in the role of Motormouth Maybelle (also in the 2013 concert) and nailed the anthem-like "I Know Where I've Been". Kirsten Scott reprised her role in 2013 as Amber von Tussle and hasn't missed a beat as did Julie Kavanagh as Penny Pingleton.

Ron Remke played the sexy television host Corny Collins. Stephen Scott Wormley as Seaweed J. Stubbs demonstrated his dance ability as well as a strong voice.

It was great to have a local, Jaylan Simmons, a senior at the Baltimore School for the Arts, as "Little Inez". Her classmates made up a terrific chorus standing at the rear of the orchestra.

The majority of the creative team from the 2013 concert and once again established their successful work: Jennifer Ladner (Director/Choreographer), David Levy (Dramatic Director), Greg Sanders (Vocal Director), and Clare Henkel (Costume Designer).Mario Serruto did the great lighting.

Matthew Kraus was the Sound Designer. I'm not sure who is to blame for the bad acoustics. It was difficult to hear most of the lyrics. Maybe in the future there should be sur titles as they did for PORGY AND BESS.

Congrats to all for a thoroughly entertaining evening.

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From This Author Charles Shubow

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