BWW Review: Run and Tell That HAIRSPRAY is a Hit

BWW Review: Run and Tell That HAIRSPRAY is a Hit

Friday's opening night audience enjoyed the Playhouse Merced production of "Hairspray" - perhaps a little too much. The promise of community favorite Jim Kocher in drag and of soulful tunes to show off fantastic vocal talents were more than enough to match the audience energy with that of the cast. And the ensemble did prove itself with consistent, strong harmonies in an exciting and colorful show.

"Hairspray" follows Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized girl with a plus-sized heart. Although her hair-do is too large for some to handle, others, like TV personality Corny Collins, welcome her confident attitude and bold dance moves. Right in the middle of America's segregation wars, Tracy pulls together black, white and friends of all colors for a relevant and hopeful finale. Hollywood turned the Broadway musical into a film in 2007, and viewers will see the show again next winter when NBC performs a live television version. In the mean time, audiences can catch a fabulous, "big and beautiful" production in Merced.

The creative team out(hair)do themselves with technicolor lights, bright costumes and rotating set pieces that bring the upbeat 60s-style to life. Katy Ueno's cheerful and vibrant Tracy leads the company, from her first eager smile in "Good Morning Baltimore" to the lively finale, "You Can't Stop the Beat." Jim Kocher chooses not to overplay his role as Tracy's mother. His Edna is a laidback, insecure and relatable woman, which makes the character's hesitant transformation all the more enjoyable.

Kocher's wife, Dianne, lends her flawless voice to "Corny Collins" manager Velma Von Tussle. Tussle aims to make her daughter (Madison Mitchell) famous and steer the youth of Baltimore in the "white" direction. Tracy, however, has other plans with the help of Motormouth Mabelle and Seaweed Stubbs. Elena Carter and GB Blackmon III are at their best in entertaining and poignant songs like "Run and Tell That" and "I Know Where I've Been."

Other highlights include a memorable Austin Worden as Wilbur Turnblad, a refreshing Baylor Browning (with a killer voice) as Tracy's crush Link Larkin, and a dedicated Rachel Pearre as Tracy's hilarious and awkward best friend Penny Pingleton. The one fault of Merced's "Hairspray" is a poor sound system and lack of enunciation that made it difficult to understand much of the dialogue opening night. But this did little to detract from the overall stamina and fun of the show. Tidy up the sound and Merced Playhouse will have a near-perfect musical.


Playhouse Merced
Through Feb 21

Photo by Shawn Overton

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