You can’t stop the beat of Hairspray and its infectious musical numbers, which are paired with a cast who clearly loves the musical as much as its audience does.
The play is presented by Maurice Galpern and The Lower Ossington Theatre and was directed by Alan Kinsella. This broadway musical has been done in various different ways and in various different forms, some viewers might remember the 2007 film version starring Nikki Blonsky and John Travolta. However, Lower Ossington’s version of it is astonishingly and pleasingly more intimate without losing its bombastic and feel-good energy.
The play is set in 1962 Baltimore and deals with a teenage girl, Tracy Turnbald (Michele Shuster) who has big dreams, and an even bigger personality -- the perfect candidate to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. After auditioning and getting chosen for the lead role, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to TV’s new superstar. Along with dealing with her new found fame, Tracy must also find a way to combat the issues of race on TV, while trying to find her prince charming.
Shuster brings life to her character and her bubbly personality shines throughout her performance. She is not the only one who stands out in this play. Each actor brought versatility to the musical and every character is unique.
Link Larkin (Aaron Wolfe) stood out as Tracy’s crush, who eventually becomes her boyfriend. He oozes charisma and good looks, with his slicked back hair and perfect suits. Other notable cast members include Jeffrey Bowers as Tracy’s mom Edna Turnbald, Michelle Nash as Tracy’s best friend Penny Pinkleton, and Matt McKay as Penny’s boyfriend Seaweed J. Stubbs.
Bowers brings sass and style as Edna and is a pretty smooth dancer, who never misses a beat. Nash has good comedic timing and gets the audience laughing when she is forced to dance in a chair after being tied up by her mother. Finally, McKay is cool, classy and shows the other characters his dance moves while also trying to get Penny’s mother to like him.
Hairspray would not be complete without the famous musical numbers, choreographed by Greg Carruthers. The first musical number is “Good Morning Baltimore,” which is a good way to get the crowd into the rhythm of the show. However, it is the final number, one of my personal favourites, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” that really gets the crowd out of their seats and signing along. Even a few men in the audience could not help but bop up and down in their seats and sing along to the song, a sentiment which continued in the washrooms after the play ended.
The synchronized dances were fun and enthusiastic, with big hand gestures and a lot of twirling and spinning. Also, each character has their time to shine in the spotlight as mostly every actor got their own solo, which I thoroughly enjoyed because it allowed each actor the ability to showcase their talent and it allowed the audience the ability to experience the characters’ personalities on a deeper level.
The one downside to a small theatre like the Randolph Theatre is that every noise becomes a distraction. Latecomers made a lot of noise and distracted the audience many times. Also, there were a few technical issues because the microphones constantly cut in and out, which made it hard to hear the actors at times.
The set design by Michael Galloro was very minimalist but this was made up for by the bright and multi-coloured lighting, Mikael Kangas, used through each musical number.
Hairspray is a great production and will warm your heart and soul, leaving you smiling and dancing on your wait out of the theatre.
Hairspray runs at the Randolph Theatre until April 12. See http://lowerossingtontheatre.com/ for more details.