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Show Palace Dinner Theatre's 'Hairspray' soars over the top and into the heart

The title of the musical Hairspray sounds, well, a little silly and fluffy. Really, how serious can anyone feel about a pressurized can of goop?

Don't be fooled.

Although Hairspray is fun from start to finish — great songs, lovable and deliciously unlovable characters, and dazzling dance numbers — it's the story that takes this multiple Tony Award-winning musical right over the top and into the heart.

Set in 1962 Baltimore, it's the tale of pleasantly plump Tracy Turnblad, whose big dream is to dance on the Corny Collins Show, the Baltimore version of American Bandstand. But it's not just dancing Tracy is interested in. After she is sent to the school detention hall because her beehive hairdo is considered "inappropriate" for the classroom and makes friends with a cool bunch of African-American kids, Tracy also wants to help to racially integrate the TV show.

Tracy is discouraged from even trying out for the show by her plus-sized mom, Edna, who hasn't left the house since she put on the pounds years ago and is fearful people will tease her plus-sized daughter if she dances on the show. But Tracy's dad, Wilbur, owner of the Har-De-Har Hut joke shop, urges Tracy to try out.

It all leads to civil rights-style marches with Tracy's new black friends and battles with Velma Von Tussle, producer of the Collins show and mother to the bratty Amber, who has ruled the show for years.

The show, based on a 1988 John Waters movie, won numerous awards when it made its Broadway musical debut in 2002, including Tonys for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score; and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Book of a Musical, Lyrics and Music. The musical was adapted into a second movie in 2007, starring John Travolta as Edna.

For the Show Palace, artistic director Matthew McGee will play the traditionally cross-dressing role of Edna. McGee has won Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay awards for his performances in several Tampa Bay area theaters and has appeared at the freeFall Theatre and American Stage, as well as with the St. Petersburg Opera Company.

Playing Tracy Turnblad will be Sara DelBeato, who was one of three finalists for the second Tracy replacement for the Broadway show. DelBeato has played in numerous Show Palace productions and won a HAMI Award for her performance in Funny Girl at Stage West Community Playhouse. She has set box office records for her Bette Midler tribute, "The Bette Set," at New American Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Scott Daniel (Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Lance in A Joyful Noise) will play dance-show heartthrob Link Larkin. Power singer Nathalie Hostin (Gladys Hightower in A Joyful Noise) returns to the Show Palace stage to play Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a downtown record shop and the hostess of "Negro Day" on the Corny Collins Show.

"She's got me laughing every day," McGee said of Hostin.

Her Big, Blonde and Beautiful is one of the show's best-loved numbers.

Jess Smith, who made his Show Palace debut as soul-singing Marcus in Noise, plays Seaweed J. Stubbs, Tracy's singing-dancing pal, son of Maybelle and boyfriend of Tracy's best gal pal, the slightly dorky Penny Pingleton (newcomer Lindsay Nantz). Gabrielle Mirabella, the politician's snippy wife in Noise, will play the evil Velma Von Tussle. Robert Teasdale, the hunky singing cop in Noise, will be the brash, but brave Corny Collins.

The show's director and choreographer is David Rossetti, who was part of the creative team for the Broadway and national tour productions of Hairspray and was on the road with the tour for more than a year.

"It's a wonderful cast and crew," McGee said. "It's so great to work with these people."

>>fast facts

For tickets

Hairspray, a musical in two acts, matinees and evenings Jan. 6 through Feb. 26 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Dinner and show, $49.50; show only, $38.45, plus tax and tip, for adults; $24.95 and $19.95 ages 12 and younger. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco, or call toll-free 1-888-655-7469 elsewhere.

Show Palace Dinner Theatre's 'Hairspray' soars over the top and into the heart 12/29/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 29, 2011 3:07pm]
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