Stafford Palace Theater, Stafford Springs, CT
through May 3, 2014
by Eric Sutter
Set in the early 60's, "Hairspray" tells the story of a plus-sized girl Tracy (Meghan Allen) who dreams of being a featured dancer on "The Corny Collins Show" -- the equivalent of "American Bandstand." The musical mimics much of that time period's pop music sound with new lyrics set to sock hop style dancing.
To start, a simple set features a bed on which Tracy awakens and breaks out in song with "Good Morning Baltimore". A "Cool Jerk" sounding song called "1960's Town" brings the play's characters into a campy fun roll call. Toe-tappers ease the integration of the show's dancers which include cross-dressers and role reversal humor. "I Can Hear Bells" displays a troupe dance around the innocence of first love. Racial and gender barriers are broken down with strange twists. Of course, male authority figures such as Passion Park High's principal (David Sartori) try to suppress the music. Tracy is given detention for her discovery of Negro Day. (Remember, the show is a period piece and a satire.)
Josh Farber, in the role of Tracy's mom Edna Turnblad, is hilarious as a drag queen. A Top 40 hit, "It Takes Two" is crooned by Tracy's love, Elvis clone Link Larkin (Joe Lucenti). Many gyrations later, Link kisses Tracy. A "Supremes" style "Hey Momma" features Tracy and mom. Motormouth Maybelle (Jasmine Keane) sings a hot R&B number "Run and Tell That" with a life-affirming message of it being “OK” to be different...it's time to integrate!
Act II opens with "Big Doll House"...girls behind prison bars. As comic as the actors are, there is an honest, loving, relationship between Tracy's parents. Michael Holt portrays Tracy’s dad and the comical repartee by the Turnblads during "Timeless To Me" makes light of gender roles. Without giving away the ending, know that multifunctional hairspray saves the day.
Kudos to stage, set, and costume crews for a unique production. Title song "Hairspray" by egomaniac Corny Collins is fun. "You Can't Stop The Beat" proves an appropriate hand-clapping finale. Don't miss the final entrance of Edna Turnblad and Maybelle's soulful solo.