OMG. I am sooooo thankful I've already bought my ticket to go see the musical Hairspray a second time later this month. After the full house at Friday's opening night show starts spreading the word that this is the most terrific musical the Show Palace Dinner Theatre has ever done, those tickets are going to become as scarce as hen's teeth.
Hairspray has the pizzazz of Chicago, the heart of Showboat and the daring of La Cage aux Folles. The stage show even outdoes the John Travolta movie (which I love), because it's bolder, bawdier, edgier, and just plain ol' more fun.
Somehow, live actors, feeding off the audience's energy and responding to the audience's enthusiasm are almost always better than any film could be. This is doubly so with the incredible Show Palace cast — the incomparable Matthew McGee cross-dressing as the corpulent mama, Edna Turnblad, Sara DelBeato as the equally girth-challenged Tracy Turnblad, the adorable Scott Daniel as the adorable heartthrob Link Larkin, Steve Garland as Edna's worshipful hubby Wilbur and Nathalie Hostin as the black and proud Motormouth Maybelle — and that's just a start.
Kudos up front to the beautiful Gabrielle Mirabella, who severely sprained her ankle the last night of rehearsal, but taped it up and used a walking cane to enhance her characterization of the imperious Velma Von Tussle, the tyrant who rules over the Corny Collins Show, the Baltimore version of American Bandstand. She's a show-stopper who wouldn't let anything stop her.
Hairspray is set in 1962, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. One of Tracy's two desires in life is to be on the Corny Collins Show, the other to hook up with the show's sublime, but cocky dancer-singer, Link Larkin. When Tracy meets the tall, handsome Seaweed J. Stubbs (the tall, handsome Jesse Smith) in detention hall, she learns the dances she needs to catch both Link's eye and Corny's. In gratitude — and just because she thinks it's the right thing to happen — Tracy vows to integrate the Corny Collins Show.
Her best gal pal Penny Pingleton (a sprightly Lindsay Nantz) is on board with her, mostly because she is smitten by Seaweed.
Penny's mom (a terrific Jorie Janeway, who does multiple roles equally well) is horrified that her darling daughter is cavorting with a "colored boy." But Edna, whose mom was a Suffragette, and Wilbur, who's just a good guy, support Tracy and her cause, no matter what.
That leads to all kinds of trouble, but also some out-of-this-world production numbers that are more than for looks. Listen carefully to every word of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's lyrics and Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan's script, because every single word means something important.
The 1960s allusions are also worth noting. Example: when Edna surveys her bod and remarks she is "like a half-filled book of Green Stamps — beyond redemption."
Take time to notice each cast member beyond the up-fronts: teenager Ilexis Holmes as the captivating Little Inez (when she winds up on Broadway, you can brag you saw her when she was just a kid), Maybelle's little girl; Robert Teasdale as the forward-thinking Corny Collins; Lizzy Nolen as the petulant and spoiled Amber Von Tussle; Troy Lafon doing a great job in numerous roles, most outrageous, the tubby Mr. Pinky; the trio of Ayana Major Bey, Heather DiBianco and Martina Sykes, who live up to their names, the Dynamites; and singer-dancers Trey Chavis as Gilbert, Timothy O'Neal Springs as Duane; Michelle Alagna as Brenda; Matthew Glover as Brad; Megan Morgan as Lou Ann; Ryan Naimy as IQ; Bobby Picker as Fender; and Janie Wallace as Tammy.
The award-winning Tom Hansen's sets and lights should earn him another award; Susan Haldeman's management of the stage is right on; and William Garon's sound tracks are note-perfect. The new soundboard gave a few problems, especially during Ms. Hostin's big number I Know Where I've Been, but her powerful voice carried the day anyway.
Pulling it all together was multi-talented director/choreographer David Rossetti,.
If you see only one show this year, make it the Show Palace's version of Hairspray.