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Hairspray - The Little Theatre on the Square - Sullivan, IL

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Candleshoe2
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"Hairspray"
The Little Theatre on the Square - Sullivan, IL
June 10, 2007 - 2:00 Show

Hairspray - The Little Theatre on the Square - Sullivan, IL

** Warning, I did not intend this to be so lengthy, but I just had a lot to say! **

Just returned from what I believe is the second regional production of “Hairspray” in the United States at The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, Illinois, and had an amazing time! I was a little weary about seeing a regional theatre put this show on, after being a bit disappointed by NSMT’s, but once the show started, I knew I was in for a treat!

The show was directed by Greg Graham, who was part of the Original Broadway Cast as a Dance Captain, and he did an amazing job making this show work in a lower budget setting. A lot of the original staging was used throughout the production, such as in “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “Good Morning Baltimore”, and a lot of the fun was seeing how other songs and scenes were staged differently. The set, while fairly simple, consisted of two revolving platforms that would spin around to reveal different scenes, which worked really well. Other set pieces would be wheeled on and off by performers such as Tracy’s bedroom, which was set up similarly to the “bird’s eye view” set used on Broadway, but the bed was the only object set in perspective. This also doubled as Penny’s bedroom, with Prudy tying her upward and where Seaweed entered through the window – a refreshing change from Seaweed entering from the audience on Broadway. There was no light-brite wall in the back; however, the lighting design was wonderful, and all the scenes were colorful and bright.

The actors on stage all gave noteworthy performances, and each one of them has what it takes to be performing on a Broadway stage. There was really not a weak link in the cast! Leading the show was Cheryl Ann Sanders as Tracy Turnblad! She had a very infectious personality that was backed by a great voice! She made the character very real, but kept to the over-the-top nature needed to play this role. Her voice was very strong, and she was an incredible dancer! Eric Johnson as Edna Turnblad was another stellar performance! I have to say his interpretation of the character was very close to Divine’s, and all of his facial expressions and mannerisms made his role very memorable. His wigs, however, looked like something you would buy on sale for Halloween at Party City. I hoped he would do more adlibbing and take some liberties with the role, but some of the parts where this would happen (Encore of ‘Timeless to Me’) were not there. I’m sure the overpopulation of elderly men and women in the theatre were puzzled as to why a man was playing a woman, but the rest of the audience’s reactions made up for it. He did an incredible job of making the role his own, and I’d love to see him on Broadway!

Michael Haws played an innocently comical Wilbur Turnblad who made his moments on stage very funny. He had a nice singing and speaking voice for the character, and his onstage chemistry with his partner, Edna, as well as his superb comedic timing had the audience laughing in places I hadn’t heard before. Another awesome performer!

Kara Guy was perfect as the dorky Penny Pingleton and did an amazing job with the character! Her comedic timing was excellent, and she had a terrific voice when she let loose in Act 2 during “Without Love” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat”! Her frizzy “pig-tailed” brown wig fit perfectly for the character and I loved her costume and wig for the Finale, which was a different look than used on a Broadway. She should take Alexa’s place on Broadway! C.K. Edwards was another standout as Seaweed. While he didn’t necessarily take a lot of liberties with making the songs his own like others who’ve done the role, his acting made up for it! He played very real Seaweed and had great chemistry with Kara!
Another great performance came from Marie Jagger-Taylor was the villainous stage-mom, Velma Von Tussle! At first, it was very odd seeing a brunette Velma, but it worked, and she did an amazing job as the villain of the show! Her singing voice was very strong, and she had a French dialect that entered in and out of her lines (that I didn’t remember any of the other Velma’s doing.) Her onstage daughter, Amber, did a great job as well. She really did make the character an easy one to hate! I laughed when the audience erupted into applause after Link said, “Amber, go!” Her wig looked very fake on her, as it was the typical synthetic blonde wig. Despite her wig, she still was great!

Patrick Shaw did a good job of playing the brainless heartthrob Link Larkin. His acting at some points was a little wooden, but his singing voice made up for it. Kelli Crump’s Motormouth Maybelle had a strong, belty voice that made her songs really stand out, and she looked the part too . All of her big notes were usually cut off by the orchestra, so some of her moments could have been a little stronger. A few of her lines came off as sounding campy, but for the most part, her acting was very strong. For being such a young performer, I was really surprised that she was able to do such a good job.

And I saved the best for last… The two stars of the show, in my opinion, were Glory Kissel and Patrick McCarthy as the Female and Male Authority Figure.

Glory Kissel had the perfect look for all of her parts. Her facial expressions and mannerisms made her character one of the funniest I have seen (almost up to par with Jackie Hoffman). She was much older than the character usually is, but that didn’t stop her from anything. Her runs after “The Big Dollhouse” were cut, but she added them in as she began to exit. She had some great adlibs in the Finale when she runs in after she sees her daughter on TV. She yodeled in from the back of the house, but stopped in front of the stage and decided to “break the tension”. She pulled out a piece of paper and said she was going to read some jokes that she purchased from Wilbur and Edna’s Hardy-Har-Hut. After her jokes, she made her way up on stage and continued; it was very original and funny. She needs to go to Broadway!

Patrick McCarthy made the usually small Male Authority Figure role into an extremely fun and memorable character! As Mr. Spritzer, he mumbled to himself and made the character look like someone who had no clue why they were there or what they were doing. His Mr. Pinky and Principal were just as funny; his personality with those characters had the audience laughing hysterically. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed his performance! The ensemble all gave great performances, but you could see it in their faces (and the sweat on their faces) that the show was really physical for them. Everyone in the ensemble seemed to have their moments to shine.

The costumes, for the most part, somewhat resembled the Broadway costumes. But there were some changes here and there, some good and some not so good. Motormouth Maybelle had a long, hot pink, shiny blouse and pants during her first scene. Edna and Tracy’s “Welcome to the 60s” dresses were gold with red feathered trim. They were very different, but it was nice seeing something new for a change. The Finale costumes all were very different! Tracy had a pink dress, Penny had a multicolored, shiny dress, Edna entered in a long, purple evening gown (that did not really fit the time or mood). I was glad to see a change in the design of this show since I am so used to seeing it done one way. Now I can see all the possibilities this show has, and how a different company can interpret the way the show could look. The wigs used in the show worked, but were obviously made rather cheaply, and nothing like the wigs used on Broadway. Tracy’s wigs, for the most part, were similar, but there ere a few changes here and there, such as her “Welcome to the Sixties” wig being a light reddish-brown color. Edna’s wigs could have been a little more elaborate, though the opening wig worked great. Edna’s wig after the makeover, for me, was not enough to show that much of a change, and it stayed pretty much the same all the way until the end of the show. I was expecting a really over-the-top wig for the Finale, but it wasn’t! All of the female ensemble’s wigs were a bit too “Party City”, but worked.

The orchestrations, played by an eight person orchestra, were really in tune and sounded great, although they were a bit too loud for the venue. I was sitting in the front row, which meant a lot of the singing was overpowered by the orchestra, but I was familiar enough with the show to make out the lyrics. However, the old women behind me had trouble understanding some of the singing due to the overpowering orchestra.

If you can make it to Sullivan in the next two weeks, please go! I cannot rave enough about how talented this company is! Go see in and you won’t be disappointed! If anyone has any questions about how the show or such, let me know, and I’ll answer the best I can!

The show runs through June 24th! Here’s the website: http://www.thelittletheatre.org/now-showing.html for the theatre!

Hairspray - The Little Theatre on the Square - Sullivan, IL

Hairspray - The Little Theatre on the Square - Sullivan, IL
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TheatreDiva90016
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"His wigs, however, looked like something you would buy on sale for Halloween at Party City."

From the pictures you posted, I would say the same thing about all of them.
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2
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Switz78
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I just wanted to point out that Cheryl Ann is not under 5'3" and I'm sure it did not effect how you veiwed her as Tracy. Now if only the tour and Bway casting folks could get that through their heads.

Also wanted to mention that the future Little Mermaid started and got her Equity card from Little Theatre, so they do find some great talent.
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Also, the point of Edna is that she IS a woman. The fact that the role is being played by a man should never draw focus.

When Jon Pinette played the role on tour, the majority of the audience had NO idea it was a man playing Edna. THIS is the craft of the actor and the way the role was written. Harvey Fierstein, Bruce Vilanch and Michael McKeon had a bigger struggle as audiences knew them already and they had a more difficult time permitting/allowing the audience to accept them as Edna, which they eventually did.

Edna Turnblad is 100% female. Though she is being played by a male has no relevance to how the role needs to be performed. It is to be a female, not a "man in drag" as it's not a drag role.


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TheatreDiva90016
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Brody,

As always, 100% right on target.

"I just wanted to point out that Cheryl Ann is not under 5'3" and I'm sure it did not effect how you veiwed her as Tracy."

Uhm, she's towering over the other kids. That would affect things greatly.
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2
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DottieD'Luscia
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I don't know, after looking at those pictures, it looks like Party City had a sale on wigs.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
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sidneybruhl
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Thanks for the review and pics. I'm curious. Is this an Equity theatre?
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sidneybruhl
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Sorry, just read Switz post so I got the answer to my question.
Jon
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This theatre has been around for over 50 years. From the 1950's through 1980's, it was a "star" summer stock theatre, featuring well known TV, Broadway and movie stars in musicals and light comedies.

Because they are located in the middle or rural Illinois (more than three hours drive from Chicago), they often get rights to new shows before Chicago regional theatre can, since they would not be competing with a touring company.
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Candleshoe2
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Yes, the wigs were a little "Party City" like, but the talent definitely made up for it! I'd strongly suggest seeing this company!
Makanthony22
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Candleshoes2,
Just curious did you see the NSMT production?
Thoughts?

Is this an equity production in IL
Kringas
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Did anyone see the Follies concert (with Ann B Davis and Susan Seaforth Hayes!) they did? I came really close to taking a road trip, but decided against it.
"How do you like THAT 'misanthropic panache,' Mr. Goldstone?" - PalJoey
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Candleshoe2
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Actually, I did not "see" the North Shore Music Theatre's production of "Hairspray", but I did "listen" to it, and from what I've heard of it, a lot of it left me very underwhelmed. Not everyone was terrible, there were actually a lot of great performers in the show, just some were miscast, in my opinion.

And yes, that was an equity production.
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Candleshoe2
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Just found this on YouTube - a video of the company rehearsing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXgxqWZhCok
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TheatreDiva90016
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Wow, that's like watching your parents performing.
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2
Jon
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Again, YES, it is an Equity theatre. Most of the actors come from Chicago.
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BrodyFosse123
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Wow! The rehearsal looks great. Too bad the production value isn't up to par with the performers.

Oy!

Fosse76
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The Tracy looks like she's in her mid-thirties in those pictures. The designs of the production didn't look too bad, but those wigs!! Was the hooker warehouse having a sale?
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Candleshoe2
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The Tracy is 26, and I didn't think her age distracted from her performace. In costume and wig, she was very believable to be much younger.
stgmnger
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Cheryl Sanders is actual 5'2 3/4. She is one of shortest members of the Company.
and she does not appear in her mid-30's. On stage her energy is all teenager. Please check your facts before you post incorrect information.
Fosse76
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" Please check your facts before you post incorrect information. "

Learn how to read before you tell people not to post incorrect information. I said she LOOKED like she in her mid-30's in THOS pictures. I never once said she was in her mid thirties, nor did I say that she looked like that live on stage. Get a grip.
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TheatreDiva90016
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Obviously stgmngr is a shill for the show, seeing how that was his/her ONLY post.
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2
Flaunt It
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Looks very VERY similar to Jerry Mitchel's Choreography.. did not know that was licensed out with the production.
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It's a production choreographed by the original Broadway dance captain. Notice it isn't a copy, but it is similar. There is a difference.
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Candleshoe2
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For anyone interested, the theatre's website has posted some photos from the show. Though the photos don't really do the show justice, it at least gives you an idea of how it was performed!

http://www.thelittletheatre.org/images/Hairspray_web/index.htm
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"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2

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