BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY DAZZLES AND DELIGHTS NOW THRU AUGUST 11 at Victoria Theatre

BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY DAZZLES AND DELIGHTS NOW THRU AUGUST 11 at Victoria Theatre

Bay Area Musical's production of HAIRSPRAY rocks the house early 1960s style, with lacquered bouffants and non-stop music, dancing and comedy - all wrapped up in a story about spunky, plus-sized teen Tracy Turnblad of Baltimore and her dream to be a dancer on the local TV dance program, "The Corny Collins Show." It's a glorious, over-the-top concoction that's also imbued with warmth, vulnerability and an uplifting message. Winner of 8 Tony Awards (including "Best Musical") the show with big hair and bigger dreams tackles size discrimination, racial integration and, believe it or not, agoraphobia. Playing now thru August 11 (with a "Pay What You Can" Night on July 12) HAIRSPRAY will have you dancing for days and get you fired up to fight on against injustice everywhere.
As the strains of "Good Morning, Baltimore" began to fill the historic Victoria Theatre, the energy on the stage and in the audience was as high as Tracy Turnblad's hair. It created a huge buzz of excitement that added immeasurably to the show. I've been on this beat for a while now and it's easily the best audience I've ever been a part of. Cassie Grilley's portrayal of the loveable Tracy is infectious and she has the audience with her from the very first measure. Her strong vocals belt out the possibility of living her dreams even as her mother, the larger-than-life Edna Turnblad (played with depth and humor by Scott DiLorenzo), cautions that she'll get made fun of if she dares to
BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY DAZZLES AND DELIGHTS NOW THRU AUGUST 11 at Victoria Theatre
Scott Taylor-Cole as Corny Collins
audition for the Corny Collins Show. (Corny Collins is brought to fabulous life by Scott Taylor-Cole who seems born for this role.) Undaunted, Tracy turns to her dad, Wilbur (played with loving silliness by Paul Plain) for help. Wilbur, who's living his dream as the owner of a joke shop that he runs down in the basement, promptly tells her to go for her dreams.
Sure enough, Tracy's ridiculed by Crazy Collins producer Velma Von Tussle (Sarah Sloan) and her equally mean daughter Amber (Lauren Meyer), who's a dancer on the show. This mother-daughter duo, in their petite, size 2 pink dresses and perfectly coiffed blonde hair, are every plus-size girl's nightmare. To make matters worse, Amber's "going steady" with show heartthrob Link Larkin (the dashing Kamren Mahaney), the boy of Tracy's dreams.
Director/Choreographer Matthew McCoy has created a fine and flexible ensemble that frames and enhances the lead characters perfectly. They're having fun up there and they want everyone to get in on the fun. The choreography is comical and contagiously foot-tapping but also dynamic and uplifting; the mix of goofy and sincere is a winning combination. Set Designer Lynn Grant must have had a great time creating the campy, fun, cartoonish set that really works well in the smallish space of the Victoria. The use of a fog machine to create ambiance was overkill though, and if anything, detracted somewhat from the action on stage.
Wig Designer Jackie Dennis had her work cut out for her concocting the signature 60s bouffant hairstyle whose look was created by teasing women's tresses into heaping mounds of hair high atop their heads and keeping the "do" in place with massive amounts of hairspray.
Her wigs are complimented by Costume Designer Brooke Jennings high school 60s chic. Bright pops of color for the girls and basic slacks and shirts for the boys ensure that this is most definitely a female-centric show. Jennings wisely keeps Tracy and her geeky best friend Penny Pingleton (Melissa Momboisse) in plain plaid until the end of the show, emphasizing their oddball, outsider qualities.
Tracy finally gets her dream of being a dancer on the show (and even competes against Amber for the title of "Miss Teenage Hairspray"). Being on television means that Tracy has done her part in leveling the playing field for big girls everywhere. She's even convinced her mom to leave the house ("Welcome to the 60's"). And though
BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY DAZZLES AND DELIGHTS NOW THRU AUGUST 11 at Victoria Theatre
Scott DiLorenzo as Edna Turnblad, with Paul Plain as Wilbur Turnblad
Edna is still self-conscious about her own size, she's growing into her self-esteem. But Wilbur's always seen her beauty. In one of the best songs written for musical theater, "You're Timeless to Me," Wilbur woos his wonderful wife and he starts out by telling her that "Whenever I'm near you it's like grabbing hold of a giant joy buzzer!" You can't get more romantic than that! Luckily their daughter has never let her size stop her.
With a taste for how equality feels, Tracy has an even higher aspiration now - that of integrating the dance show to include the African American teens who only get to dance once a month when Motormouth Maybelle hosts Corny Collin's "Negro Day." After meeting Motormouth's son Seaweed (the dazzling Dave Abrams) and her daughter Little Inez (Kennedy Williams is amazing in this role) the injustice of it all compels Tracy take a stand.
Elizabeth Jones is a standout as Motormouth Maybelle. Speaking in rhyme most of
BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY DAZZLES AND DELIGHTS NOW THRU AUGUST 11 at Victoria Theatre
Elizabeth Joes as Motormouth Maybelle
the time, she packs a wallop with the song "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" which is sung to convince Edna to "love herself from the inside out." But Jones' big moment - and really the pinnacle of the show - comes with the song, "I Know Where I've Been," a haunting anthem that speaks to the long road of injustice she's been traveling and the unstoppable future that's coming. It's a brief and sobering moment that honors that difficult and ongoing work and it's perfectly paired with its polar opposite, the show's exuberant closing number, "You Can't Stop the Beat," both songs saying in their own way that change will come - and in fact, it's already started - and just like the motion of the ocean, there's no way you can stop it.
Onward.
HAIRSPRAY
Playing now thru August 11
Victoria Theatre, San Francisco
http://www.victoriatheatre.org/
Book by Mark O'Donnell & Thomas Meehan
Music by Mark Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Mark Shaman
Photo courtesy of Ben Krantz Studio


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From This Author Linda Hodges

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