Through October 6|
HAIRSPRAY Kavinoky Theatre
By Augustine Warner
You may never have heard of “Hairspray,” the musical from Baltimore.
It’s based on the John Waters film and put together by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.
Don’t worry that you may know nothing about the show.
Get over to the Kavinoky Theatre and see it.
It’s set in a local TV station with one of those afternoon music shows for kids.
Every town had one and “American Bandstand” moved up from a Philadelphia show to a national one which made Dick Clark rich, one way or another.
Baltimore was a heavily Black city which wasn’t reflected in any way on “The Corny Collins Show,” filled with thin White and young dancers whose moves were much more of the Fifties and earlier than the 1962 of the show.
The show features host Corny (Marc Sacco) and lead singer and dancer Link Larkin (Jamil Kassem-Lopez), helping peddle Ultra Clutch hairspray.
Link is an item with Amber Von Tussle (Cassidy Kreuzer), daughter of the show’s producer and a giant blonde hairdo among the show’s dancers.
Tracy Turnblad (Maeghan McDonald) wants desperately to be on the show, as does her buddy Penny Pingleton (Arin Lee Dandes).
Tracy may be a good dancer for the time but she’s somewhere between heavy and as fat as is her mother Edna (Billy Lovern).
Penny and Tracy show up for an open audition for the show, as does Black young person Li’l Inez (Talia Mobley).
It’s hard to tell which panics producer Velma Von Tussle (Natalie Slipko) more, the heavy Tracy with her monumental hairdo or the youth of color Li’l Inez.
Neither qualifies as the image of her show, with its rock solid base sometime in the past.
Velma rejects both, with her double entendre number “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs.”
Tracy worms her way onto the show by her performance at a record hop (remember those?) at her high school, run by Corny Collins.
She has learned some new dance moves from the mother of a fellow student, Motormouth Maybelle (Lorenzo Shawn Parnell), owner of a well-known local record store.
Tracy is angry about a national TV cast of Corny Collins which won’t allow Black dancers and she leads a protest which leads to a brawl outside the event arena when Velma calls the police.
That leads to everyone going to jail and performing “The Big Dollhouse.”
Velma is a buddy of the governor and he orders Velma and Amber released and when Tracy’s Dad Wilbur (John Fredo) makes bail for everyone, the governor orders Tracy held and put into solitary confinement.
Link breaks her out.
When The Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant begins, police say Tracy is on the run and Velma decides Amber will win the competition until Tracy shows up with her diverse crowd of supporters and forces The Corny Collins Show to be permanently integrated.
Velma gets a post at the hairspray company, in charge of the line of products for women of color.
Tracy dances off with Link and Penny’s mother, Prudy (Anne DeFazio) recognizes her daughter’s feelings for Motormouth Maybelle’s son, Seaweed J. Stubbs (Brian Brown).
“Hairspray” clearly has an agenda, but it was the times, in the heart of the Civil Rights struggle.
The show has a lot of good music, from the opening “Good Morning Baltimore to “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
There are also Link and Tracy, with the male cast members with “It Takes Two,” Eda and Wilbur with “You’re Timeless to Me” and Motormouth Maybelle, The Dynamites (Anika Pace, Gabriella McKinley and Alexandra Watts) and the ensemble with “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
Director and choreographer Carlos R.A. Jones has a strong cast and a good set from Paul Bostaph, especially the giant screens on the back of the stage to help tell the story.
There’s really good work from McDonald, Sacco, Slipko, Fredo, Lovern, Parnell and DeFazio and just generally well-drilled dancing on the Kav set.
There ought to be a wig credit for this show.
“Hairspray” isn’t one of the familiar musicals, although it’s getting to be because it’s recent and relevant (awful term but accurate) and because it has some great music and great dancing telling a really good story.
Again, see it.
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