Friday, April 20, 2012

HAIRSPRAY at Drury Lane Theatre

You can't stop the beat or as director Tammy Mader has proven in Drury Lane Theatre's infectiously delightful production of the Tony Award-winning “HAIRSPRAY” that opened tonight and is running through June 17th nor would you ever even want to.
Based on the 1988 John Walters cult classic film, that starred a young Ricki Lake and was the final film for Walter's muse Divine, which was then turned into a hugely successful 2007 movie musical that starred John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer . HAIRSPRAY is the exuberant story of big-hearted, pleasantly plump teen Tracy Turnblad played with charm and heart by the adorably big voiced Lillian Castillo. Tracy will stop at nothing to fulfill her lifelong dream of appearing on the popular Corny Collins Show (Rod Thomas whose voice is as big as his smile) and win the heart of the coolest kid in town Link Larkin played by Erick Altemus who is all teen idol mixed and is able to make his character land. As Tracy's parents one wishes that Saturday Night Live cast member Tim Kazurinsky had more charm and possessed additional chemistry with Jeff Award winning Michael Linder who is comedic gold as Edna Turnblad.

In additional roles as Penny Pingleton Rebecca Pink steals every moment she is on stage and possesses one of the largest voices I've heard in the role and Holly Lyn Laurent as Amber nails the ruthlessness of the role without sacrificing any of the camp. Speaking of being ruthless as the villain of the piece one misses the haughty grandeur that Hollis Resnik brought to the role in the Marriott Linolnshire production a few years back but one can't ignore Keely Vasquez's star quality and sensational voice.

Sadly I'd say the one disappoint in this sensational cast is Tony Award Nominee Felicia Fields as Motormouth Maybelle. Ms. Fields a Tony Award nominee for Outstanding Featured Actress for her role in The Color Purple on Broadway seemed to be missing the vocal heft for the role and the drama that could have made her big solo “I Know Where I've Been.” I've witnessed Ms. Fields perform ever since I first caught her at a benefit for Dale Benson at the now defunct Candlelight Dinner Playhouse where she stopped the show with a rendition of Family from “Dreamgirls.” The woman has vocal flourishes to spare and can sell a performance like its no ones business which she proved in an impromptu bit right before the second act finale so maybe it was just an off night for her.

It's amazing that a show such as HAIRSPRAY that is currently so popular and probably in the DVD players of so many kids today plays so fresh and doesn't miss any of the well orchestrated laughs that are built into the piece, from the opening wake-up scene all the way to Edna's entrance at the end. This is all due to the talents of director and choreography Tammy Mader who makes everything work so well and pop on stage. She's ably assisted by assistant choreographer Ariane Dolan and musical director Malcolm Ruhl who taken this big comedic show and made it work without missing a beat.

Another reason the show works so well is the music of Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Wittman that evokes the music of the period that still advances the plot and doesn't feel boxed into the wonderful book by Mark O'Donnell and Marc Shaiman that never fails to find a laugh without sacrificing the heart and charm of the show.
That seems to be the strength that is built into the piece and makes it so endearing that from the opening refrains of the innocence of “Good Morning Baltimore” to the driving anthem “You Can't Stop the Beat.” The best way to think about this is show is to look at Ms. Castillo's Tracy Turnblad who is probably one of the most endearing characters in musical theater. Ms. Castillo a modern day zaftig Nellie Forbush who is a girl that no matter what life throws her way is just going to stand up tall, look you up in the eye, and shake the meanest tail feather that you've ever seen and she will probably thank you for allowing her to do it.

HAIRSPRAY is running at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane through June 17, 2012.  The performance schedule is as follows:  Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35), Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35) and 8 p.m. ($40), Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ($45), Saturdays at 5 p.m. ($45) and 8:30 p.m. ($46) and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($45) and 6 p.m. ($40).  Lunch and dinner theater packages range from $49.75 tp $68 depending on the day of the week.  Group rates for Student tickets start as low as $20 and Senior Citizen tickets start as low as $30 for matinees and $44.75 for a matinee lucheon package.  For reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111. call TicketMaster at 800.745.3000. or visit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Penny is played by Rebecca Pink, not Rebecca Link. Thank you