BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY: Teasing Its Way onto the Stage of Beef & Boards
HAIRSPRAY is such a likeable musical, full of catchy upbeat tunes and 60's flair. It is nearly impossible to resist the urge to tap your toes or bob your head as Tracy wheels her way around the dance floor. But the latest production of HAIRSPRAY at Beef & Boards brings more than what the musical has to offer on its own. It has heart and soul that cannot hide, even behind the misty clouds of Ultra Clutch hairspray.
As soon as I hear HAIRSPRAY, my mind begins playing the opening bars of "Good Morning Baltimore," and I find myself dreaming of taking a city by storm with my immense talent. That is the allure of HAIRSPRAY. It is a girl who has a dream that seems unattainable who doesn't back down from making it come true. What's not to love? But it also has enduring messages about body image, self-esteem, racism, and standing up for what's right rather than what's easy. That makes it both a powerful vehicle for humor and for change.
HAIRSPRAY is such a whirlwind of color and musical fun that it's hard to find fault with it as a show, and, as always, Beef & Boards' exceptionally talented cast brought it to life in vibrant and enticing ways. However, every performance has moments that endure in an audience's mind, sometimes because of the content and at times because of the performers. This production served up a bit of both.
One scene that I am still giggling to myself about is when Wilbur and Edna Turnblad sing "Timeless to Me." The song itself already has some funny lines, but this scene was a standout because of the talents of Daniel Klingler as Edna and Eddie Curry as Wilbur. They clearly had a moment or two when they went off script, and it produced hysterics from audience members. I doubt I was the only one who got a good ab workout from laughing so hard during that scene. It was so abundantly clear that Klingler and Curry were having just as much fun on stage. That kind of spunk is really infectious and was very memorable for me.
Another scene that drew attention was Motormouth Maybelle belting the bars of "I Know Where I've Been." Tarra Conner Jones sang that song with such conviction and passion that it roused several audience members to their feet before it was even close to curtain call. Her emotion was apparent, and she used it to make her vocal range from a nice high and tight sound to a deep and round soulful sound. It was truly mesmerizing to watch her give life to a song with such an important message behind it.
It may be an obvious pick, but I can't help but mention the final song, "You Can't Stop the Beat." It showcases Adee David as Tracy, Nate Willey as Link, Nikki Miller as Penny, Antonio Leroy King as Seaweed, and of course Edna and Wilbur (Klingler and Curry). It was such a triumphant way for everyone to showcase their talents, and it was another moment where the ensemble as a whole took to the stage with sheer gusto. The melody is still stuck in my head, and I have to say, I don't mind one bit.
Adee David's interpretation of Tracy is daring and sharper than ever, particularly if you are familiar with Nikki Blonski's more innocent interpretation of the role in the 2007 film, and it is clear she owns the show. Tracy in this production at Beef & Boards is completely unregretful in her passion for Link (Nate Willey), her dislike for her new rival Amber (Sarah Daniels), and her passion to act on her beliefs. From the rousing, "Good Morning, Baltimore," that opens the musical, setting the tone for the rest of the show, to the more sappy, fantasy number, "I Can Hear the Bells," which was imaginatively choreographed and staged by Ron Morgan left no doubt that this musical is hers.
A special set of kudos does have to go to Sarah Daniels as Amber Von Tussle for being able to shift characters. Usually a sweetheart in previous shows we've seen, Daniels clearly has what it takes to put on a sour face and play a bit of a witch.
For me, one the best performances in the show has to be given over to Daniel Klinger as Tracy's mother, Edna. Complete with his nightgown and heels, Klinger is moving and funny, providing all the comedy that is needed to push the show over the top. Klinger, traditionally in drag as Edna, constantly cracked up the audience with his deadpan delivery of the lines and some clear augmentations to the original show during the sweet love song "Timeless to Me" with husband Wilbur (Eddie Curry, tremendously funny as well).
It wouldn't be sufficient to leave our review without putting a brief spotlight on Tarra Conner Jones in the role of the outspoken voice, Motormouth Maybelle. Beyond capturing the pureness her role, it was an truly something to have been present for her performance of "I Know Where I've Been," which had people literally standing up and cheering afterward because of the power and soul she put into it.
This polished, highly professional production is yet another feather in Beef & Board's cap. This show was a genuine "Welcome to the 60's" that promoted a timely message about the need for racial harmony while pleading a strong case against bullying. It can also give viewers a positive message about being yourself and owning the talents you possess. To get your chance to witness Tracy take on the world one dance step at a time, HAIRSPRAY runs until October 6th.