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HAIRSPRAY
Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Mark Shaiman

Casa Manana

Director - Casey Hushion
Choreographer - Josh Rhodes
Hair/Wig/Makeup - Patricia Delsordo
Costume Design - Tammy Spencer
Lighting Design - SamuelRushen
Sound Design - Shannon Slaton
Music Direction - Aimee Hurst Bozarth

CAST:

Tracy Turnblad - Jennifer Foster
Edna Turnblad - David Coffee
Penny Pingleton - Laura Wetsel
Link Larkin - John ArthurGreene
Seaweed J. Stubbs - Donell James Foreman
Amber Von Tussle - Sainty Reid
Velma Von Tussle - Cara Statham Serber
Corny Collins - Jarret Mallon
Motormouth Maybelle - Sheran Goodspeed Keyton
Little Inez - Sydney Porter
Wilbur Turnblad - Doug LoPachin
Spitzer/Pinky/Principal/Guard- Christopher Deaton
Prudy Pingleton / Gym Teacher / Matron - Sarah Gay

Ensemble - Drew Kelly, Dustin T. Norris, Jeremy Dumont, Tanner Lee Hanley, Alyssa Gardner, Olivia Sharber, Ashley Arnold, Aubrey Adams, Desmond Dansby, Michael Anthony Sylvester, Eean Cochran, Darius-Anthony Robinson, Hannah Morgen Miller, Tesia Kwarteng, Adrianna Hicks, Jo-Rhea Dalcour

MUSICIANS

Piano / Conductor - Aimee Hurst Bozarth
Keyboard 2 - Elaine Davidson
Guitar - Kim Platko
Bass - Rex Bozarth
Drums - Brent Dacus
Percussion - Michael McNicholas
Reed






Reviewed Performance 8/13/2011

Reviewed by Clyde Berry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Hairspray began as a 1988 movie by cult filmmaker John Waters, featured Divine in a cross dressing role, and a young Ricki Lake . Her character was a chubby and feisty teen who attempted to get on the local Bandstand dance show and didn't understand the racial prejudice around her. A campy send up of the transition from the 1950's to the 1960's, a Broadway adaptation was created in 2002, and won multiple Tony awards. A few years later another movie version came out, this time of the musical adaptation.

Director Casey Hushion has a clear understanding of the material and has created a production that has the right tone, pace, and energy. The gags are many and not overdone, the staging is clean, the pictures interesting, and the story has heart. It really is a feel good production. At the reviewed performance, the audience was applauding before numbers even finished. With a very minimal set, to keep the audience engaged for so long requires a high energy level from the whole cast as well as believable characters and smart, engaging blocking, all of which is present.

Working flawlessly with the book scenes is Josh Rhodes' choreography. The majority of the high energy comes from the relentless, sharply executed and beautifully flowing dances of the ensemble. It should be noted that each member of this hard working group smartly delivers. Not a single person out of formation, hand astray, or"checking ? in" look at the person next to them. A lot of hard work is put into this aspect of the production and it is well worth it. There are also nice distinctions between the moves of the Nicest Kids in Town, and the Kids from the Other Side. A special nod to the featured Dynamites (Tesia Kwarteng, Adrianna Hicks, Jo-Rhea Dalcour) for their vocal and dance skills.

Rounding out the performance trifecta is the musical direction of Aimee Hurst Bozarth, who also conducts. The pit is great, and the music moves along quickly, keeping the pulse of the show alive. Everyone is well prepared and shows off the best parts of their voice whether in ballad or a speedy dance number. Again, the ensemble has a solid, cohesive, and enjoyable sound. It would be nice if the microphones didn't miss the first few words of ensemble's lines or new characters to a scene.

The set is sparse for this production, there are no flies as in the original production, but the unlisted set designer has made effective use of a few wagons that feature building facades. A few desks, record bins, beds, and jail-bar sections are pretty much it. With the musicians upstage in the pit of the "Corny Collins" Show as part of the action, and a few period images surrounded by lights in the proscenium, the pieces are sparse, but the detail and intentions good. Scene shifts are well coordinated, and some coordinated lighting efforts isolate the sections of the stage as needed.

The rest of Samuel Rushen's light design is on par as well. A backdrop of what reads as colored dots is evocative of Kenneth Posner's famous "Light-Brite" board. This backdrop provides a variety of looks for the many locations in the story, and is pretty cool. The lights provide a nice look for "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now".

Tammy Spencer's costumes are an appropriate rendition of the movie and Broadway looks. The small and hard-working ensemble has lots of quick changes easily managed by shedding or adding jackets and smaller pieces. The rest of the show, they are in the same character outfit. The leads have a bit more variety with some nice pieces for folks that suit the personality of their character quite well. Colors and fabrics reflect the appropriate cool or square-ness of the folks they cover.

As teen activist and hip kid Tracy Turnblad, Jennifer Foster has the energy to bring the enthusiastic teen to life. Foster navigates the music well, and is quite capable of shaking a calf. She has great chemistry with her parents and love interest. A particularly nice moment is her reprise of "Good Morning Baltimore" which allows her a nice inside look into the doubts, fears, and hopes of Tracy ? a nice acting moment.

Opposite Foster as Link Larkin? the up and coming teen crooner is John Arthur Greene. Greene nimbly dances across the stage without ever taking a shortcut. He delivers a fully engaged physical character, and is strong vocally, making the "It Takes Two" his own (but the prop guitar should go). Greene provides a nice arc to the character who breaks hearts until he learns what the stakes really are in the story.

As the ankles-and-elbows awkward Penny Pingleton, Laura Wetsel creates a loveable nerdy girl who comes into her own. Penny is Tracy 's best friend, and is often the punch line to most scenes, but Wetsel takes what can be throw-away jokes and makes them much more meaty. Her Penny gets as much cheering and support as Tracy from the audience. It's a shame Penny doesn't have more in the show.

Delivering a very memorable" Run and Tell That" is Donell James Foreman as Seaweed J. Stubbs. Foreman is no stranger to the role, having played the part on tour, and his easy smile and enthusiastic presence allow a great delivery of the deadpan racism lines in the show. A solid dancer and great voice serve him well.

Putting his own stamp on the gender bending role of Edna Turnblad is local favorite David Coffee. Edna has always been played by a man, in part a tribute to Divine from the original movie. In a padded suit but without affecting an overdone female character, Coffee succeeds in bringing to life a mother who is supportive, but no-nonsense. He has great comic timing and his zingers (as usual) land well.

As baddies Amber Von Tussle and her mother Velma Von Tussle, Sainty Reid and Cara Statham Serber are not so much menacing as they are cranky. Both are capable actresses and singers but Amber comes off as more of an annoying brat than a threat to Tracy . Likewise, Velma doesn't manage to seriously thwart anyone's plans but seems to heckle from a distance. It doesn't help that her solo "Miss Baltimore Crabs" is an un-staged sing-and-strut that follows the more elaborate "I Can Hear the Bells". Still, while not as villainous as they could be, both ladies do well, and are by no means uninteresting.

Sheran Goodspeed Keyton fills the shoes of Motormouth Maybelle quite well. Her Maybelle is a warm and knowing mother with a drive to do things right. Both "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" and "I Know Where I've Been" are show stopping numbers that garnered big applause. Keyton knows how to fill a song dramatically, and her "I Know?" is a soulful treat that highlights the honey in her voice.

Supporting as Wilbur Turnblad, Doug LoPachin has a few bumps with his book scenes but springs to life in" You're Timeless to Me". That's the polish needed everywhere.

In multiple character roles Christopher Deaton excels. His characters are over-the-top quirky folks that shine brightly in each scene.
Similarly, Sarah Gay shows her versatile range in creating Penny's mother, a border-line inappropriate gym teacher and the prison matron. These two performers make the most of every moment they have.

Reprising his role for various tours, Jarret Mallon is able to hold court well as Corny Collins. Sydney Porter delights as feisty Inez.

Casa has a hit on their hands with Hairspray. It's a fun, slick, and tight production. Simply put "It's a Hair ... DO".




Hairspray
Casa Ma?ana Theatre
3101 West Lancaster Ave. , Fort Worth 76107

Show dates are Saturday August 13th at 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm; Sunday
August 14th at 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm; Tuesday August 16th at 7:30 pm;
Wednesday August 17th at 7:30 pm; Thursday August 18th at 7:30 pm;
Friday August 19th at 8:00 pm; Saturday August 20th at 8:00 pm;
and Sunday August 21 at 2:00 pm.

Ticket prices are $40 to $65 depending upon seating location. A $20 student rush ticket will be offered one hour prior