AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series presents Dallas Theater Center's production of HAIRSPRAY
Book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Dallas Theater Center
Director – Joel Ferrell
Producer – Joanna Lugo
Director of Production – Rebecca Cribbin
Choreographer – Rickey Tripp
Music Director/Conductor – Vonda K. Bowling
Sound Designer – Peter McBoyle
Lightng Designer – Amanda West
Wig and Make-Up Designer – Leah Loukas
Production Stage Manager – Megan Winters
Corny Collins – Shane Allen
Seaweed J. Stubbs – Anthony Chatmon II
Edna Turnblad – David Coffee
Tracy Turnblad – Michelle Dowdy
Link Larkin – Joel Ingram
Prudy Pingleton/Gym Teacher/Matron – Julie Johnson
Harriman F. Spitzer/Mr. Pinky/Principle/Guard – Rob McCollum
Little Inez – McLaine Meachem
Motormouth Maybelle – Liz Mikel
Penny Pingleton – Taylor O’Toole
Amber Von Tussle – Deanna Ott
Wilbur Turnblad – Bob Reed
Velma Von Tussle – Cara Serber
Dynamites – Ayanna Edwards, Tanisha Moore, Gabrielle Reyes
Ensemble – Erica Burkett, Jacob Burns, Cole Cloutier, Jovan Dansberry, Cayley Davis, Imani English, John Franklin, Natalie Goodin, Alexandria Gray, Taylor Nash, Jill Beth Nicholas, David Postlewate, Kyrsten Roach, Sean J. Smith, Chad Vaught, Voltaire Wade-Greene, Kyle Ward, Rhett Warner
Reviewed Performance: 7/7/2018
Reviewed by Joel Gerard, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Racism, social injustice, protests, fat shaming, segregation, cultural appropriation, women empowerment, inequality, and white privilege. Sounds like a typical week in America in 2018, right? I was referring to Baltimore, Maryland in 1962. Hairspray is about Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized teenager who wants to dance on the local Baltimore after-school program called the “Corny Collins Show”. Her dream comes true, but through her sudden fame she also tries to integrate the program so that black kids and white kids can dance together. There are some serious themes in the show but make no mistake that this is a bright and fun musical that’s a genuine crowd-pleaser.
This piece is a new collaboration between The Dallas Theater Center and the AT&T Performing Arts Center which takes place at the Winspear Opera House. Considering DTC tends to do more artistic shows, and the AT&T PAC brings Broadway touring shows, this seems to be a happy medium for both. And luckily their first collaboration is a hit! I really hope they do more fun and well-executed shows like this in the future.
Tracy Turnblad is a great lead part that requires a lot of singing, dancing, and emotion. Michelle Dowdy is here from New York, where she was the standby for Tracy in Hairspray on Broadway. She has played over 400 performances and she obviously knows every nuance to the character. Her voice is absolutely fantastic and she nails every dance move with boundless energy. She is truly a star, and I can’t think of a better actor that I’ve seen play Tracy.
Tracy’s mother Edna Turnblad is a housewife who hasn’t gone outside in many years because she’s gained weight and is afraid people will make fun of her. Because of Tracy, Edna learns to accept herself and her size no matter what anyone thinks. The role of Edna is typically played by a man, so we have local established actor David Coffee in the larger than life role. Mr. Coffee tackles the role with gusto. Edna may be shy and anxious, but Mr. Coffee is relaxed and confident every moment he’s on stage. He’s funny and charming and plays well off of Bob Reed as Wilbur. Their duet of “(You’re) Timeless to Me” was a highlight because of their chemistry and a few hilarious ad-lib moments.
Another local legend, multiple COLUMN Award winner Liz Mikel had just returned from New York in June where she received rave reviews for her performance in Eve Ensler’s Off Broadway play Fruit Trilogy at the Abingdon Theatre Company. In 2011 Mikel made her Broadway debut in Lysistrata Jones. Now for Hairspray, she plays matriarch and all-around diva Motormouth Maybelle. She has two talented kids who dance on the “Corny Collins Show” once a month which is considered “negro day”. She runs a record store where the neighborhood kids can dance and have fun. Tracy’s determination inspires Maybelle to protest at the TV station for an integrated TV show. Ms. Mikel is tough but caring as Maybelle and commands the stage every time she opens her mouth. Her Act II ballad “I Know Where I’ve Been” is a showstopper and she sings her heart out.
Velma Von Tussle, and her daughter Amber Von Tussle, are Tracy’s main antagonists. Velma is the producer of the “Corny Collins Show”, and Amber is the star. They are very much against integration and want to keep only the white kids on TV. Cara Serber plays Velma with a gleeful wickedness. The way she is styled, with tall blond hair and glittery suits, immediately made me think of Ivanka Trump. Whether that was the intention or not, it made me laugh and added to Ms. Serber’s comedic portrayal. Deanna Ott as Amber is a great foil for Tracy. Her movement and voice are superb, and I enjoyed her performance very much.
Seaweed J. Stubbs is Motormouth Maybelle’s son who dreams of dancing on TV and admires Tracy. Anthony Chatmon II is a joy to watch as Seaweed. His showstopping number is “Run and Tell That!”, and he proves what an accomplished dancer and singer he is. Penny Pingleton is Tracy’s best friend and one of my favorite roles in the show. She gets some of the funniest lines, and journeys from a shy girl to confident teen. I liked Taylor O’Toole as Penny, but she didn’t stand out very much in scenes and was largely forgettable. I would have liked a little more punch and pizazz from her, especially on her line delivery. Unfortunately, the weakest link (pun intended) was Joel Ingram as Link Larkin. He looked more like a 30-year-old man, rather than a 16-year-old teenager, and at 6’2” tall he towered over everyone else. His height makes him lanky and his dancing was a little uncoordinated and sloppy. I feel like any one of the ensemble boys, who were very good dancers, would have been a better Link.
Special kudos to the three girls who played the “Dynamites”, Ayanna Edwards, Tanisha Moore, and Gabrielle Reyes. The “Dynamites” are backup singers in the style of “The Supremes”. It’s tough to find a trio of girls who harmonize and bounce off each other with those soulful vocal riffs so well. These girls have some big voices and really wailed at the end of “Welcome to the 60’s”.
Costumes, set, and props were borrowed from other theatres across the country and I loved all of it. Motormouth Maybelle and Edna Turnblad especially have some glitzy and fantastic costume pieces. The set pieces are colorful and evoke Baltimore and the 60’s in a wonderful way. On opening night there were a few issues with the tech crew moving the set pieces. A few times they banged into each other and there was an issue with a curtain that came down in Act II and snagged on Motormouth’s set piece, but I’m confident that these were isolated problems that will be fixed during the run of the show.
This production of Hairspray is one of the best musicals I’ve seen all year, and it is a can’t-miss show. For a lighthearted and delightful evening, you should definitely see Hairspray while you can.
HAIRSPRAY: The Broadway Musical
AT&T Performing Arts Center Broadway Series presents a Dallas Theater Center production
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201
Through 15th, 2018
Tickets: For dates, times, and ticket information go to www.attpac.org or call the box office at 214-880-0202.