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Can you hear the bells? Step out for an iconic night in Hollywood to see Hairspray at the Dolby Theatre and you’ll be so glad you did! Hairspray is a timeless musical, set in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1962. Teenager Tracy Turnblad has a dream to be on the Corny Collins Show, a local dance show that features many of the popular students at her high school, including her crush, Link Larkin, and his obnoxious girlfriend Amber Von Tussle.
Her parents try hard to support her dreams, but her mother Edna, who is also on the large side, worries about what people might say about her if she tries to become famous. During detention, Tracy meets Seaweed, a black classmate and participant in the Corny Collins Show’s once-a-month “Negro Day” and learns some new dance moves from him and his friends. She finally gets a chance to audition for the Corny Collins Show but is denied outright by Amber and her mother Velma Von Tussle (the show’s producer) due to her being overweight. Corny Collins, seeing her innate dance talents, decides to cast her anyway, making her an overnight star.
Tracy uses her newfound platform to fight against segregation to the chagrin of Velma who hates anyone who isn’t white and thin. Tracy, her best friend Penny, and some unlikely allies partner with Seaweed and his family to try and integrate the Corny Collins Show. Everyone learns about themselves and their values and discovers that it’s important to stand up for what is right, even in the face of consequences.
This performance was high-energy and fun! An absolute mood booster! There were quite a few standout performers on this tour. Ryahn Evers (Amber Von Tussle) did a great job getting you to quickly hate her character, She was so perfectly obnoxious, it was impressive. Addison Garner (Velma Von Tussle) is so insanely talented in singing, dancing, acting, and…baton twirling? Amazing.
Her performance of “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs” was perfection. Sandie Lee (Motormouth Maybelle) did an amazing job as Seaweed’s mother and as the voice of a generation of people. Her performance in “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” was fantastic, while “I Know Where I’ve Been” was so soulful and poignant, I was completely taken by the pain in her voice.
Of course, Andrew Levitt (Edna Turnblad) who is also known for his drag persona, Nina West, is a total star. Those unfamiliar with Levitt may worry that the persona could overtake the character, but it doesn’t at all. While Levitt was very funny at the points the character needed to be, the serious and emotional performances were perfect, and I was blown away by his singing and physicality through dance numbers. “(You’re) Timeless To Me” was just a hilarious and heartwarming delight, with Ralph Prentice Daniel (Wilbur Turnblad) keeping up the heartwarming and silly energy needed to match that of Levitt’s Edna.
Niki Metcalf (Tracy Turnblad) also did an amazing job with fantastic vocals. Her energy was infectious. Having never seen the stage version of Hairspray, I was blown away by how quickly you feel like you’re at a party at times. I was still singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” the entire way home. The show was such a delight, I can’t recommend seeing this show enough, especially since its themes are still very relevant in 2023. The pacing for the show was perfect, with no period that felt long or like it didn’t belong. If you’re into a happy ending, this is for you!
The set design was simple, using a digital backdrop that could easily change with every scene, and some basic practical sets that used forced perspective allowing them to be small and easily movable. The music was expertly performed, with the conductor, Charlie Yokom, even popping out to have some fun with the audience. Speaking of fun with the audience, I know traffic in Hollywood can be less-than-ideal but consider staying all the way through because it’s fun until the lights come up.
This show is truly enchanting, and absolutely can’t be missed! Grab your hairspray and join the nicest kids in town to see Hairspray at the Dolby Theatre.
When: May 2 – 21, 2023