‘Hairspray’ energizes the stage at the BroadHollow Theatre

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“Where are they getting all that energy?” the reviewer wondered halfway through the first act of the rowdy, joyful production of “Hairspray,” now at the BroadHollow Theatre. For the singing and dancing is just about nonstop throughout this two-hour musical.

For those who’ve never seen it, “Hairspray” is based on the hit movie by John Waters. The book is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the music by Marc Shaiman. It concerns Tracy Turnblad (Meg O’Brien), a plus-sized but supremely plucky teenager living in Baltimore in 1962. She’s the beloved only child of two plus-sized parents, the gleefully coarse Edna (traditionally played by a very large man, in this case the wonderful Scott Hofer) and Wilbur (Gary Milenko), a man who’s as big-hearted as his wife.

Tracy wants to be a famous dancer more than anything, and along with her adoring friend Penny Pingleton (Erin McKenna) is a fan of The Corny Collins show, a sort of Shindig/Hu­llabaloo/B­andstand type gig sponsored by a hairspray company. Eventually, and in spite of her weight and the contempt of the snooty producer Velma Von Tussle (Linda May), Tracy does become a regular on the show.

In a weak-kneed concession to changing times, the Corny Collins show has a Negro Day, where one day a month black kids can come on the show and dance. Tracy, bless her, wonders why they can’t have Negro Day every day. In other words, why can’t the show be integrated? Given her personality, she decides to do something to correct this inequity. Madness ensues, along with much singing and dancing, and concludes with all manner of happy endings.

The huge, charming cast is directed and choreographed by Jessy Waller. The costumes are knockouts straight from the era, with the girls in candy-colored crinolines and the boys in delightfully unfortunate pastel-colored suits. The hairdos, kept in place by the eponymous hairspray, are giddily improbable; one girl wears a beehive that seems taller than she is. Kudos to costume designer Jillian Coratti.

The sets, by BroadHollow Scenic, are made up of movable pastel-colored flats straight out of those soulfully dumb dance shows of the early ’60s, and the tinsel curtain that backgrounds the Miss Teenage Hairspray contest is so vulgar it’s beautiful. Shaiman’s peppy songs harken back to the early ’60s too, hiccups, “doo-wops” and all.

O’Brien’s Tracy is a whirlwind of optimism and energy even when she’s in slam for her civil rights stunt. Her rival for fame, fortune and hunky boyfriend is Amber, Velma’s mean girl of a daughter, played with honeyed nastiness by Jessica Rae Schaefer. The boy Tracy and Amber both love, the handsome but dopey Link Larkin, is played by the energetic Brian Gill. Tracy’s best friend Penny is beautifully brought to life by McKenna.

At first self-effacing, happy to defer to Tracy in all things, she blossoms with the love of Seaweed (the excellent Keven Anthony Campbell), the son of the sassy host of Negro Day, Motormouth Maybelle (Cindy Galloway). It’s startling to see McKenna channeling Tina Turner at the end of the night, in a figure hugging fringed dress and very large hair.

When the reviewer said “Hairspray” was exhausting, she meant that in a very good way. It’ll be at the BroadHollow, 700 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, till Jan. 29. For tickets and information call (631) 581-2700 ext. 13.

Posted 6:56 pm, January 18, 2012
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Reader feedback

erica from williston park says:
While the review was completely accurate and vastly opinionated, you failed to mention the young man who played Corny Collins (Ryan Raybuck). I mean how could you forget that smile!? He was the most entertaining and well rounded actor/singer/dancer in this production. That part could not have been played by anyone else and he did an absolutely magnificent job.... and that is a fact.
Feb. 3, 2012, 2:49 pm
STEVE says:
March 16, 2012, 8:56 pm

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