Hairspray is based on John Waters’ fun-loving 1988 film, in which the auteur director explored early 1960’s pop culture, integration, and high hair in his hometown of Baltimore, MD. In the early 2000s, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell, and Thomas Meehan wrote the Broadway musical based on Mr. Waters’ original screenplay and it became a Broadway hit. The Delaware All-State Theatre (DAST) is now producing the musical in Newark, DE. DAST gives students throughout Delaware the chance to showcase their theatrical talents in an annual large-scale musical production. In this production, the students tell the zany and sentimental story of a fictional trailblazer, Tracy Turnblad.
You know you’re in for a real treat when the curtain opens and our large teenage heroin Tracy (Amanda Garcia-Walker) sings “Good Morning Baltimore” and introduces us to her city and some of its most colorful residents. We soon find out that Tracy and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Emily Freebery) aren’t very concerned with school, but are more fascinated by the “Nicest Kids in Town,” the exclusive teenage Council Member dancers on The Corny Collins Show (an American Bandstand like TV show based in Baltimore). The TV show host Corny (Chad Michael Jervis), and his Council Members, led by star couple Amber VonTussle (Lydia Stinson) and Link Larkin (Nicholas Michael), entertain teenaged Baltimoreans with their exuberant dance moves.
Tracy learns of an opening on the Show when one of the Council Members has to suddenly leave. She decides this is her moment and that she’s going to skip school to audition for the spot. Understanding what it’s like to be a “big girl” and how people can sometimes be cruel to larger people, her seamstress mother Edna (Ben Walker) tries to discourage her daughter from auditioning. However, Tracy’s novelty store owner/inventor father Wilbur (Gregory Wolf) encourages her to follow her dream, and she does. Auditioning for the show doesn’t turn out exactly as Tracy plans; the Show’s “crabby” and sinister producer Velma (Bridget Carrow), who also happens to be Amber’s mother, thwarts her chances of becoming a Council Member, due to Tracy’s size. Velma also crushes the dreams of an African-American teenage girl who also attends the audition. Excusing her based on her skin color.
Although Tracy may not have landed a spot on the Show, she did meet her dream-boy Link and she also realized her real mission in life after seeing the treatment of the African-American young lady – desegregating Baltimore. By the way, Tracy’s favorite day of The Corny Collins Show is “negro-day.” Once a month Motormouth Maybelle (Colleen Scott), an African-American record storeowner, hosts the Show with only African-American teenagers, including her son Seaweed J. Stubbs (Andre Revels), dancing in place of the Council Members. Tracy thinks everyday should be “negro-day” and that all the kids should be able to dance together.
Undeterred, Tracy goes back to school where she is placed in special education, due to her high hair. In her new class she meets Seaweed and he introduces her to hip dance moves that she can use to get Corny’s attention at her school’s dance that he’s hosting. Does Tracy’s plan get her the spot on the Show? Will she and Link become boyfriend and girlfriend? Will she desegregate Baltimore? I don’t want to spoil all the FUN, so you will have to go see this toe-tapping musical to get the answers.
Jeffrey Santoro directs some of the most talented teenage performers in Delaware! His cast exudes excitement as they sing and dance across the magnificent set by Scenic Designer, Stefani Hansen. The uber-talented Miss. Garcia-Walker perfectly captures Tracy’s always-optimistic personality, while Mr. Walker easily transforms into Tracy’s loving mother Edna. His great comedic timing and Lucille Ball look leaves the audience in stitches! It takes a real man to play a woman. Unfortunately I can’t mention every stellar performance in my piece, but I would be remised if I didn’t mention two actresses, Miss Carrow as the villainous Velma and Miss Scott as the idealist Motormouth. Both young ladies bring their A-game and give exceptional performances with their respected musical numbers.
Don’t miss this family-friendly extravaganza that everyone will enjoy; my 8-year-old friend Meara was enthralled by the show! Hairspray runs through July 1st at the Thompson Theatre in the David Roselle Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Delaware. For information and tickets, visit www.dastonline.org.