Hairspray

Written on June 10th, 2011

Hairspray

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Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Choreographed by Gino Berti
Musical direction by Elizabeth Baird
Performed by Thomas Alderson, Karen Andrew, Matthew Armet, Danielle Benton, Andrew Broderick, Rachel Clark, April Cook, David Cotton, Cassius Creightney, Ian Deakin, Trudy Lee Gayle, Lisa Horner, Ethan Lafleur, Nichola Lawrence, Michael Lomenda, Larry Mannell, Marianne McCord, Chad McNamara, Laura Mae Nason, Desmond Osborne, Erica Peck, Stephanie Pitsiladis, Alana Randall, Keith Savage, Sarah Vance, Vanessa Volcy.
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 8 to July 2, 2011
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, Waterloo
May 11 to June 4, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Disclaimer: The reviewer’s son is part of the cast.

Big Hair = Big Success

It’s as if the audience climbs inside a giant aerosol can of hairspray and is teleported back to 1962. But it’s not just the good old days of the sixties; we see the ugly underside of the era as well. Don’t get me wrong; this musical is a lot of fun, but it shows us the nastiness of American segregation

And that’s what makes Hairspray a good show – we laugh at the funny foibles of the early sixties, such as big hair, and at the same time we’re appalled at the racial prejudice. Drayton Entertainment has created an excellent musical, backcombing the fun together with a message, into one huge mountain of brightly coloured hair.

Tracy Turnblad is a chubby, charming teenager, who wants to dance on a TV show similar to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Because of her big hair blocking the view in the classroom, she is sent to detention, where the Afro-American students teach her to dance. Despite her plus size, she earns her way onto the daily TV show. She’s appalled that Negroes are only allowed on the show once a month on a separate Negro day, and it becomes her goal to make every day Negro Day.

Stephanie Pitsiladis is a perfect Tracy – her heart is as big as her hair, and she brings full energy to the role, singing and dancing her way through the entire show. It’s a huge part influencing the entire show, and she carries it very well. Along with Pitsiladis, there’s an amazing cast.

Following the Hairspray tradition of having a man play Tracy’s mother, Ian Deakin is excellent as Edna Turnblad. Deakin has hard acts to follow: other men have been excellent Ednas — Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, John Travolta in the movie, and George Wendt at Charlottetown Festival. But Deakin is right there with the best of them. He is very charming and it’s easy to forget he’s a man!

Another Hairspray surprise! Watch closely in other scenes – see if you can find men playing women’s roles. With excellent costumes and wigs, they can be easily missed!

Larry Mannell plays Edna’s husband, Wilbur Turnblad. Like his lovely “wife”, Wilbur is also charming. Deakin and Mannell have a heart-warming duet and dance together beautifully.

The comedy in Hairspray is provided by two of Canada’s funniest: Lisa Horner and Keith Savage. Horner is well-known as the “Start the car” lady in the Ikea TV ads. She brings hilarity to Hairspray in several roles, and is best as Penny’s racist mother and the high school coach. Savage, a favourite at Drayton Entertainment, also has several comedic roles, and gets laughs just for walking across the stage.

Marianne McCord is pure evil as Velma VonTussle, along with Laura Mae Nason as her daughter Amber. Nason’s voice is perfect as Amber, the bully. Erica Peck, with her powerful belt, is a hilarious Penny Pingleton, and makes an amazing transformation. Link, the leading man, is played by David Cotton: he’ll be remembered as Troy in High School Musical last year. Nichola Lawrence demonstrates outstanding vocal ability as Motormouth Maybelle. Micheal Lomenda, who was Nick in Jersey Boys, plays a smooth singing Corney Collins, the dance show host. Rounding out the cast is an enthusiastic chorus of high energy singers and dancers. Credit goes to choreographer Gino Berti for lively dance numbers.

Sets are excellent – the show opens with Tracy waking up in the morning in her upright bed! Later we’re amazed to see what comes out of the giant can of hairspray. The colourful array of costumes takes us right back to 1962. The music is also worth noting: musical director Elizabeth Baird leads a strong band. She was musical director of Jersey Boys and brings the same power to this show.

Hairspray celebrates an era of change – by the end of the show, the big hair is tamed and racial integration gains acceptance. Director Alex Mustakas and this energetic cast give the audience hope for a promising future and everyone leaves the theatre smiling.

Hairspray continues with eight shows a week from June 8 to July 2 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check www.draytonentertainment.com

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