BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY at Maltz Jupiter Theatre
Maltz Jupiter Theatre welcomes you to the 60's with their production of the musical Hairspray. Featuring music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the musical is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name.
Set in 1962 in Baltimore, Maryland, chubby and cheerful teenager Tracy Turnblad has a dream to dance on "The Corny Collins Show," a local TV dance program based on the real-life "Buddy Deane Show." When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight. She then launches a campaign to integrate the show. Despite all the fluff and fun, Hairspray is a social commentary on the injustices present in American society in the 1960s. Surely, the city (and the country) was simmering with the discontent of racial inequality long before the infamous Philadelphia Race Riot just two years later in August of 1964.
Featuring a cast of 27 and an eight-piece orchestra, this production features costumes, choreography and hair that aim at being bigger than life in a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the styles of the sixties. The sight and sound of the large ensemble fills the stage with colorful costuming and choreography.
The choreography in the group numbers enjoyably pays tribute to the dance styles of the time period. There are scattered moments that feel awkward however such as the beginning song which was absent of Tracy actually walking down a street with the audience seeing all the things about which she is singing. The Link and Tracy second act "Without Love" song and scene at the jail is also clumsily staged.
Mary DiGangi is likable in the leading role of Tracy Turnblad, but I would've liked to have seen her with a more bombastic personality. Tracy's charm should be unavoidable infectious. The object of her affection, Link Larkin, is played by the handsome Zane Phillips. Phillips dances the role well, though he struggles with the high notes in "You Can't Stop The Beat".
While Tracy is the main character of this show, Hairspray is filled with plum acting roles for the right actors. Michael Kostroff is just delightful as Tracy's mother Edna. He is loving, vulnerable and funny without be affected. He feels utterly comfortable in the role, and actually sings it better than I have ever heard anyone before. All in all, no easy task while playing a man in a dress! He and husband Wilbur (Philip Hoffman) have some charming moments in their duet "You're Timeless to Me". Outside of the song however, Hoffman's portrayal is bland and without character; and his face remains expressionless for most of the show. Thankfully he is partially redeemed by "You're Timeless to Me", and the fact that his scenes are with Kostroff who truly is the star of this production.
As Velma Von Tussle, Mia Matthews looks gorgeous in every fashionable costume and wig. She plays the character a bit grim however, and misses those rich moments of comedy built on the character thinly masking her villainous nature behind practiced smiles and coy poses. She should be the character you love to hate.
Altamiece Carolyn Cooper is satisfyingly sassy as Motormouth Maybelle. She sings the songs "Big Blonde & Beautiful" and "I Know Where I've Been" very well, but for my taste is missing some of the urgency and pain in the second number that make it a call to action rather than just a well sung presentational performance.
Tracy's quirky friend Penny Pingleton is played by a funny Taylor Quick. Jeanne Bennett does a nice job playing multiple, quirky adult characters. Her male counterpart, Brian Padgett, is slightly less successful, as his characters are more cartoonish, and he repeats the same comic bit with them of spitting when he talks. A dashing Lukas Poost sings the role of Corny Collins beautifully. Oddly he doesn't dance in the "Corny Collins Show" numbers, and just bops along in place from time to time. It's a directorial choice that takes some of the strength and energy away from the role.
Along with Michael Kostroff as Edna, the other stand out performance of this production is Austin Holmes as Seaweed. His dancing is slick, his singing voice is strong, and his smile and energy light up the stage in every scene. He has great stage presence, and the talent to back it up. While this Maltz production of Hairspray is enjoyable, if the entire cast were of the same level of talent as Kostroff and Holmes it would be sensational!
Hairspray opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on August 15, 2002. It received 12 Tony Award nominations-winning eight-including best musical, book, score and direction. The production ran for more than six years, closing on January 4, 2009, after 2,642 performances. It was also adapted as a musical film in 2007.
Hairspray will be appearing at Maltz Jupiter Theatre through January 28, 2018. Maltz Jupiter Theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. The not-for-profit Maltz Jupiter Theatre has become one of Florida's preeminent professional theatres, committed to production and education through its collaborations with local and national artists. Currently the state's largest award-winning regional theatre, the Theatre draws 100,000 people annually, serves a subscription base of more than 8,000 and has world-class classroom facilities in support of its Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts, which serves hundreds of youth and adults. The Theatre is a member of the prestigious League of Resident Theatres and has earned numerous Carbonell Awards, South Florida's highest honor for artistic excellence, including the prestigious Bill Von Maurer Award for Theatrical Excellence. Single tickets start at $58. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223, or 800/ 445-1666, 800/ 445-1666 FREE, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
Tracy Turnblad: Mary DiGangi*
Edna Turnblad: Michael Kostroff*
Wilbur Turnblad: Philip Hoffman*
Link Larkin: Zane Phillips*
Motormouth Maybelle: Altamiece Carolyn Cooper*
Corny Collins: Lukas Poost*
Velma Von Tussle: Mia Matthews*
Amber Von Tussle: Chelsea Turbin*
Penny Pingleton: Taylor Quick*
Seaweed J. Stubbs: Austin Holmes*
Prudy Pingleton/Gym Teacher/Matron: Jeanne Bennett*
Mr. Pinky/Principal/Harrison F. Spritzer: Brian Padgett*
The Dynamites: Tanisha Moore*, Mya Rose Puryear*, Khalifa White*
Little Inez: Lauryn Owen
Brad: Michael J. Rios*
Tammy: Tegan Kahn
Fender: Tyler Beauregard
Brenda: Whitney Grace
IQ: Trevor Starr
Lou Ann: Taylor Jackson
Duane: Jevorn Henry
Shelley: Dylan Lugosi
Sketch: Connor Saccal*
Stooie: Arthur Wesley
Gilbert: Elijah Word
Director: Bill Fennelly+
Musical Director: Helen Gregory
Choreography: David Wanstreet+
Scenic Design: Michael Schweikardt-
Lighting Design: Kirk Bookman-
Sound Design: Marty Mets
Costume Design: Kathleen Geldard+
Stage Manager: T.J. Kearney*
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
+Designates a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
-Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.
Photo by Alicia Donelan