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January 24, 2012 > Theatre Review: Hairspray: You Can't Stop the Beat!

Theatre Review: Hairspray: You Can't Stop the Beat!

By Jessica Noel Waymire

Do you long for the days of '60s sock hops? Could you use a bit of nostalgia and humor in your life? If so, come to Stage 1 Theatre in Newark for a rockin' good time as they fill the stage with bouffant and fun in the Broadway rock musical, Hairspray.

Hairspray is the story of young Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized teen with big hair and a big dream. It's 1962 in Baltimore, Maryland and young girls are swooning over The Corny Collins Show, a teen dance show with Elvis-like heartthrob Link Larkin. When Tracy hears that show is hosting auditions, she begs her parents to let her go. Edna, her queen-sized, agoraphobic mother, refuses, but her father Wilbur consents saying, "You have to dream big if you want to be big!" At first it seems that Tracy's weight will hold her back, but once she gets her chance, she becomes unstoppable!

Along with size acceptance, the musical brings to light issues of racism and segregation that were prevalent in the early sixties. Big-hearted Tracy learns some hot dance moves from one of the African American students at school and is inspired to integrate The Corny Collins Show. Will she succeed? Or will the wicked Velma Von Tussle, racist producer of the teen dance show, foil her plan?

The cast of the show is stellar, but a few stars shine especially bright. Most notable is Dave Sikula as Tracy's mother, Edna Turnblad. Edna gets the most comedic lines and delivering them in drag takes humor to the next level. Edna's character blossoms when Tracy takes her downtown for a makeover in "Welcome to the '60s." In the second act, Edna and Wilbur, played by Charles Evans, share a light-hearted and touching duet. Evans's talent saved the day when a prop malfunctioned and that moment was an audience favorite on opening night!

Jennifer Gregoire is cast as the heroine, Tracy Turnblad. This is her first appearance in a Stage 1 performance and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Gregoire uses her curves as an advantage, shaking and shimmying across the stage. A typical teen, Tracy is struggling to fit in and obsessed with boys. What transcends the teenage stereotype is Tracy's self-acceptance. She has no qualms with her size and proudly flaunts her physique.

This Broadway musical was adapted from the 1988 film by John Waters; many may remember a young Ricki Lake in the starring role. Stage 1 has succeeded in capturing the comedy and joy of this Cinderella story while balancing the serious issues presented. The only disappointment was the underrepresentation of black actors, which is sad given the fact that African Americans' integration played such a significant role in the storyline.

In spite of a few minor malfunctions, opening night was a great success; the cast received a well-deserved standing ovation! A lively cast and likeable characters (even the villains!) make this an evening to remember. The music and dancing will get your toes tapping, so bring your dance partner down to Stage 1 and join in the fun!

Friday & Saturday: Jan 27, 28; Feb 3, 4
8:00 p.m.
Sunday, Jan 29
2:30 p.m.
Newark Memorial High School
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287

Students 17 and Under: $10
Adults: $20 - 22
Groups of 15 or more: $18 per person

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