nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
September 26, 2010
"You can't stop the motion of the ocean or the rain from above—you can't stop the beat!" Nor can you stop the energy and exuberance of this delightful revival of Hairspray at Paper Mill Playhouse from lifting your spirits and slapping a smile on your face. From top to bottom Matt Lenz, the show's original associate director, has dedicatedly recreated Jack O'Brien's original Broadway production, with Jerry Mitchell's nostalgic and period-appropriate choreography skillfully whipped together by Michelle Lynch, the production's original associate choreographer. The wildly successful musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film of the same name, ran on Broadway from August 15, 2002 to January 4, 2009 and received eight Tony Awards.
This 1962-era story about irrepressible teen outcast Tracy Turnblad, who dreams of dancing on Baltimore's "Corny Collins Show," combines music and dancing with a heartfelt message—integration and acceptance are long overdue. "Why can't we all dance together?" Tracy innocently asks. With support from her friends Seaweed J. Stubbs and Penny Pingleton, Tracy lands a spot as a dancer on the "Corny Collins Show," much to the chagrin of her dual nemeses Amber and Velma Van Tussle. Tracy also wins the love of local heartthrob Link Larkin and inspires her parents, Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, to never give up and to pursue their own dreams as well.
The entire ensemble does spectacular work. They are fully committed and transport us back to a make-believe Baltimore of 1962. Christine Danelson successfully takes the lead and is winningly appealing and spunky as the determined Tracy we love to cheer onward. Broadway veterans Christopher Sieber and Lee Roy Reams are a perfect pairing and wonderfully funny as Tracy's parents. Donna English and Kathleen Monteleone excel in their obnoxious mother and daughter Van Tussle roles oozing intolerance and vindictiveness. Constantine Rousouli makes a perfectly crooning Elvis wannabe as Link, and Caliaf St. Aubyn is a smooth-talking Seaweed with heart, soul, and all the right moves. Alex Ellis is hilarious and spot on as the goofily awkward Penny who blossoms into a pretty swan. Other standouts include: Susan Mosher, who plays the triple roles of a jail matron, the gym teacher, and Penny's mother Prudy Pingleton; NaTasha Yvette Williams, who brings down the house as the brassy and bold Motormouth Maybelle; and Iris Burruss, Nicole Powell, and Rashdira Scott, who leave us begging for more as the jaw dropping, show-stopping Dynamites.
Marc Shaiman's score (with lyrics also by Scott Wittman) raises the roof. William Ivey Long's colorful costumes, coordinated here with additional design by Brian Hemesath, are fluffy and fun. Hair and wig design by Mark Adam Rampmeyer emphasize a wacky and wonderful array of up-dos, bouffants, pompadours, and flips. Kenneth Posner's lighting and David Rockwell's scenic design, revived here by Paul Miller and Michael Allen respectively, provide the perfect whimsical backdrop for the evening's festivities.
I can't recommend this production enough for those who love the show Hairspray but even more especially for those who missed the original Broadway production the first time around—you will not get a better chance to seize the opportunity! Hairspray is great fun for the whole family.