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Review: HAIRSPRAY at Broadway Dallas

Grab your dancing shoes and prepare to travel back to the 60s for a night of fun and reflection. Join Broadway Dallas for HAIRSPRAY at Music Hall at Fair Park. June 18-30.

By: Jun. 22, 2024
Review: HAIRSPRAY at Broadway Dallas  Image
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I have always known HAIRSPRAY as a fan favorite, and let me be very clear–I am a fan. The score ranges from silly to soulful to celebratory tracks that can bring you to your feet or to tears. I was ready for it all, and when the show opened with the one and only Tracy Turnblad, played by Caroline Eiseman, laying in her cozy bed–or rather, standing vertically in her bed–I had a brief moment when I wished I was doing the same. However, as “Good Morning Baltimore'' started to play and Eiseman’s perfect Tracy Turnblad voice filled the room, my mid-week sleepiness was replaced with excitement. 

As Tracy bid her neighbors “good morning” while walking through the streets of 1960s Baltimore, city buildings appeared with their sharp and colorful angles, almost cartoon-like, making the stage look whimsical and exciting. On one of the buildings was a large mural featuring The Dynamites in beautiful red dresses. Lucky for us, later in the performance this mural turned hollow and The Dynamites–Ashia Collins, Leiah Lewis, and Kynnedi Moryae Porter–walked out of the mural onto the stage in those same red dresses, singing and dancing into the hearts of all of us. It was marvelous! 

Complementing the beautiful colors and angles of the buildings, there were great uses of light throughout this performance. The lighting work of Paul Miller and Kenneth Posner was best when the entire back of the stage was covered in large, colorful polka dots of pinks and oranges, really taking us back to the '60s. A combination of light and video, designed by Patrick W. Lord, also created spotlights on the back of the stage wall, and within each spotlight illumination was the silhouette of a woman dancing. These visuals added to the grooviness of the music.

The creative team did a wonderful job painting the picture of Baltimore in 1962, not just through the set, lighting, and video, but also through the costume design and selection of props. I appreciate that the company was dressed in attire that perfectly suited the decade but didn’t distract from the costumes of the focal characters in each scene. All costumes were tailored perfectly to their characters, but one particular outfit on Greg Kalafatas as Edna Turnblad deserves an honorable mention. I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll know it when you see it. Stunning! I will admit that I’m not one to notice hairstyles or comment on them, but in this show, I must! The wig and hair design by Paul Huntley and Bernie Ardia was out of this world–seriously, some of that hair could nearly reach the moon–and it was very fun to see.

With such an energetic list of musical numbers and colorful set and costumes, there must be dynamic characters, and the cast on Wednesday evening did not disappoint. Caroline Eiseman as Tracy Turnblad was passionate and strong while simultaneously showcasing Tracy’s youthful and pure moments. It was nostalgic to watch Tracy interact with her BFF Penny Pingleton, dancing in the living room while watching their favorite TV show and supporting each other through very serious and not-so-serious conflicts. Scarlett Jacques so naturally played Pingleton pre- and post-meeting her love interest, Seaweed J. Stubbs, that I’m unsure which version of the character would suit her in real life, which is impressive because there is a major difference between the two. Josiah Rogers’s performance as Seaweed was one of my favorite aspects of this show. Rogers had such an infectious energy that when he wasn’t on stage, I was wondering when he would be back. 

Now, I know a lot of this story revolves around the Corny Collins show and the teenagers vying for a spot to dance on TV–Caroline Purdy as Amber Von Tussle was perfectly mean and self-absorbed, Audrey Taylor Floyd as Little Inez broke our hearts with her disappointment and put them back together with her gorgeous voice, and James Douglas Vinson as Link Larkin naturally played the heartthrob with a big heart–but the adults really stole the show.

Right from the beginning of the performance it was clear that Wilbur Turnblad was the most dad, dad you ever did see. Ralph Prentice Daniel had sweet, silly, and selfless energy that is only resemblant of a father, and his untamed passion for his wife only added to his charm. The dynamics between the duo of Corny Collins, played by the showy Andrew Scoggin, and Velma Von Tussle, played by Sarah Hayes, was stressfully entertaining. Scoggin knew how to work his fake TV and theater audiences, smiling while smacking people with his microphone and calling teenagers out for being pregnant. Sarah Hayes’s performance as Velma was hard to watch, not because it was poorly done, but because she so perfectly played such a horrific character. The crowd didn’t know whether to clap or cower away as she sang “Velma’s Revenge” and slowly lowered to the ground as the curtains closed, so we did both. And I can’t leave out a woman of many roles, Emmanuelle Zeesman, who was bold and goofy in all roles, but was especially questionable when it came to her character, Prudy Pingleton, punishing her daughter and managing her own loneliness. I really can’t unsee that leg twitch at the end–maybe she would be better suited for the Jellicle Ball with that move…

Above all else, there were two performances that were impressive and really helped the audience understand what this seemingly girly, youthful, light-hearted musical is about–doing what is right and being true to yourself. Who better to teach this lesson than two mothers?

Edna Turnblad, brilliantly played by Greg Kalafatas, was initially a representation of a loving, caring, encouraging-to-a-degree mother who will give up her own dreams to support her family, but as her character found friendship and increased confidence, Kalafatas’s performance heightened. He so sweetly portrayed Edna’s femininity when singing “(You’re) Timeless to Me” and revealed his character’s tough mama bear side when it came time to protect her daughter. I was excited by Kalafatas’s performance, and I appreciate his ability to portray the spectrum of a mother’s hopes, dreams, fears, and feelings. 

Lastly, and I did save the best for last, was Deidre Lang as Motormouth Maybelle. Her presence on stage was enough to make the crowd go silent. Lang’s performance was powerful and held great significance, especially in Texas on the evening of June 19th. As this character stood on what I believe to be the most intriguing part of the set–Motormouth Maybelle’s Record Shop–with its colorful walls and floors, sparkly beaded strings, records hanging, and DJ booth, she allowed us a glimpse of what Black mothers and children were feeling during the 60s. A pivotal moment of this performance was when Lang performed “I Know Where I’ve Been” right there in the record shop. Her voice sounded of heartbreak of hope, and as she was surrounded by a group of young people who wanted to fight for the chance to dance side by side, only the Black children joined her because it was their song to sing, not Tracy’s or Penny’s or Link’s. This moment was truly moving, and everyone in the audience could feel the emotion emanating from the stage.

HAIRSPRAY is a fun, hilarious, reminiscent tale with true lessons to be learned. It shines light on individuals who hate others and doesn’t allow them to hide, it proves the power of singing and dancing alongside a friend, and most importantly, it reminds us to use our voices to stand up for what is right. 

Details

Music Hall at Fair Park June 18-30. Purchase tickets through the Broadway Dallas website. Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Please take the time to visit the tour website to learn more about the amazing Cast and Creative.

Book By: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan

Music and Lyrics From: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Photo Credit: The Vokol Group, 2023




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