BWW Reviews: HAIRSPRAY, Garden Theatre's Knock-Out Season Finale

By: May. 04, 2014

That's a wrap for this year's knock-out Garden Theatre season and it finishes with possibly the best musical theater production seen this year. The toe tapping Broadway/Movie Musical HAIRSPRAY is easy to love and cross-generational. The Garden Theatre seems to have spared no expense for its finale show and it does not miss a beat. Get your tickets now as the theater has been experiencing full houses and is a great value for a production of this caliber.

The musical HAIRSPRAY is based off a 1988 John Waters's film, which made it to Broadway in in 2002, then became a New Line Cinema Film in 2007. Set to music by Marc Shaiman, HAIRSPRAY takes place in Baltimore during the early 1960s. The story centers around Tracy Turnblad and her obsession with teen dance program "The Corny Collins Show". Despite her weight and blonde annoying haters, she gets a starring role and becomes a local celebrity. Tracy loves to dance and learns her moves in detention from her colored friend, Seaweed. On Tracy's first day on the show she announces that if she were president of the world, she would make "everyday negro day." The musical superficially explores racial issues as the fight to integrate The Corny Collins Show takes place on national television.

The singing and dancing is what makes or breaks this show. The choreography needs to be sock-hop peppy with high-energy just like it was back in the day. You really can't stop the beat as the kids in this production of HAIRSPRAY do not miss a step. The hundreds of hours of rehearsals pay off for clean and precise dance routines that make you want to get up from your seat and dance.

Hannah Berry Matthews plays Tracy Turnblad as the bubbly teen bent on achieving her dreams. She's a spiffy dancer and great singer. Matthews has great chemistry with all the other characters and is a natural for the role.

The Garden Theatre is a true community theater and takes pride in casting from around Orlando. Several of the "kids" I've seen grow up and only continue to refine their amazing talents. Notably Taylor Anderson, who plays Tracy's best friend Penny, was perfectly casted and is just one of the amazing singers in this productions. Fourteen year old, Jasmine Forsberg comes out as a sweet innocent kids, but has such a powerful singing voice for her age.

Then there are veteran stage performers that add that extra value to this production. Matthew Arter shines as Edna Turnblad. Sporting sparkly heels and hot pink dresses, there is no stopping Edna. Arter's "Big Momma" approach to parenting is so sweet. Melissa Vasquez plays Motormouth Maybelle and her performance during "I Know Where I've Been" had the audience silenced, but as soon as she finished a roaring applause filled the theater.

Extreme kudos to Director and Choreographer Rob Winn Anderson, who clearly does not sleep and even when he does, probably thinks about how to make his next show fantastic. The choreography by Anderson was spot on with the time period, but also energetic and filled with precision. As a Director, Anderson clearly coached this cast to give everything they've got and it definitely pays off.

HAIRSPRAY runs at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, FL until May 25th, but tickets are selling out. For tickets and more information visit Tickets for the 2014-2015 season are already on sale. Next season will open with another Broadway/Movie Musical SWEENEY TODD in September.

Photo Credit: Michael Fleming