Like the male actor who first originated the role of Mrs. Turnblad in John Waters' wonderfully wacky 1988 movie by the same name, this first class, First National Tour of the musical Hairspray is Divine! The show is funny, campy, and in keeping with the spirit of the original Waters film, a little on the raunchy side.
The musical "Hairspray" is based on the New Line Cinema cult classic written and directed by John Waters. It's 1962 and Tracy Turnblad is a Baltimore teen with big hair and a big dream - to dance on the Corny Collins show, a local TV dance program. Tracy lands a spot on the show and becomes an instant super-sized celebrity. But the evening has just gotten underway as our spunky heroine tries to win the heart of teen hottie, Link Larkin and integrate the all white dance show at the same time.
The music by Marc Shaiman is infectious; the choreography by Jerry Mitchell is a blast; the book by Marc O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan is hysterical; the costumes by William Ivey Long are scrumptious and the scenery by David Rockwell is a hoot. Unlike some of the touring musicals that have come to the Merriam, I had no problem hearing every syllable of every lyric thanks, obviously, to Musical Director/Conductor Jim Vukovich, who never allowed the orchestra to overpower the singing talent and Sound Designer Steve C. Kennedy.
Musical highlights include "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now", "I Can Hear the Bells", Big Blonde & Beautiful", "I know Where I've Been" and "Timeless to Me" .
Keala Settle as Tracy Turnblad, our effusive and ever spinning protagonist has a delightful voice and dances up a storm. She must be losing a few pounds every week from the energetic demands of the role. In point of fact, she needs to be padded in several places, because she is not as chunky as the role demands her to be. J. P. Dougherty is wonderful as Tracy's mother, Edna Turnblad, who, dare I say it, gives a refreshingly "realistic" performance --as realistic as a very large man can be in a dress. Chandra Lee Schwartz, who can deliver a line like nobody's business, stands out as Penny Pingleton, Tracy's best friend. Charlotte Crossley (Motormouth Maybelle) takes us to church in her big number, "I know Where I've Been". Serge Kushnier and Alan Mingo, jr. as Tracy and Penny's respective love interests are both terrific as is the rest of this entire energetic cast - too numerous to mention.
When a show is this good there is little else that I need to report except for everyone who hasn't seen it to spray your curls and GO!