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Review: HAIRSPRAY National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

You certainly 'can't stop the beat' with this show!

Review: HAIRSPRAY National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

Based on John Waters' 1988 cult film of the same name, Hairspray takes place in Baltimore, Maryland in the year 1962. The story centers on a plump teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad, whose lifelong dream is to dance on the local TV dance program known as The Corny Collins Show. When Tracy wins a role on the show and becomes an overnight sensation, she launches a campaign to integrate the show.

Over eight years ago, I covered Raleigh Little Theatre's production of Hairspray, which was the second review I ever wrote for BroadwayWorld. Since then, NBC presented an Emmy-winning live telecast of the 2002 Tony-winning musical. Now, the show is back with a brand new national tour. For those who'd like to learn more about the history of Hairspray, you can read all about it through this feature I wrote for BroadwayWorld that was published on December 7th, 2016 (the day NBC's aforementioned live television production aired).

This tour that is currently playing at Durham Performing Arts Center through November 20th is actually based on the original Broadway production. Director Matt Lenz re-creates Jack O'Brien's staging to some very successful results. Robbie Roby also does a great job of recreating Jerry Mitchell's original choreography. The overall look of the show is very bright, colorful, and vibrant. Credit must go to the lighting designed by Paul Miller (who recreated Kenneth Posner's work from the Broadway run), David Rockwell's sets, and William Ivey Long's costumes. Everyone in the cast perfectly nails their characters with their singing, dancing, acting, and comedic skills.

Niki Metcalf makes for a great Tracy Turnblad, the bubbly optimist with a good heart. Andrew Levitt is so memorable as her boisterous and commanding mother, Edna. He even shares a standout moment in Act II with her husband, Wilbur, which would be their duet, 'You're Timeless to Me.' Ralph Prentice Daniel provides the right amount of eccentricity as the latter character. Tracy's best friend, Penny Pingleton, has one of the more memorable arcs in the whole show. She starts out as a shy young girl, but eventually bursts free of her mother's dominating control. Emery Henderson captures that very well with her performance. As Tracy's love interest, Nick Cortazzo brings some real star quality to Link Larkin, the teen heartthrob on Corny's show. Ryahn Evers is so mean spirited as Tracy's nemesis, Amber Von Tussle. Addison Garner is so deliciously evil as her mother, Velma Von Tussle, who is also the snobby racist producer of The Corny Collins Show. Charlie Bryant III makes for a charismatic Seaweed J. Stubbs, Tracy's classmate and friend who is discriminated against due to his skin color. Sandie Lee provides quite a roof-raising voice as his mother, Motormouth Maybelle. It especially shines in her big Act II number, 'I Know Where I've Been.'

After 20 years, Hairspray the musical is still just as joyful and energetic as it has always been. Thomas Meehan & Mark O'Donnell's book has some great heart and a clever sense of humor. Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman's score has one real banger of a song after another. This touring production should leave you smiling all night long.

For more information regarding the tour, please visit:®id=61&

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As I settled into my seat at Proctors to watch the new touring production of HAIRSPRAY, I wasn’t expecting anything particularly revolutionary. Instead, I was met with a production that embodies the show’s themes of love and solidarity so effectively that I’m convinced this show is more timely now than it was when it was conceived two decades ago.

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The audience was thrilled to welcome home Columbus’s own sextuple superstar, Andrew Levitt aka Nina West, who has successfully conquered the entertainment genres of TV, film, theatre, music, web series, and most recently as an author of children’s book, “The You Kind of Kind.”  His role as Edna Turnblad is just icing on the cake.

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HAIRSPRAY, Broadway’s Tony Award®-winning musical comedy phenomenon, went on sale September 16, 2022 at 10 AM. This new North American tour, helmed by original director Jack O’Brien and original choreographer Jerry Mitchell, will play Friday, November 4 – Saturday, November 5, 2022 in Kalamazoo at Miller Auditorium. 

From This Author - Jeffrey Kare

Jeffrey Kare currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Having been born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Jeffrey took interest in live theater at age 11. He also had the great pleasure of seeing s... (read more about this author)

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