HAIRSPRAY Dances its Way to the Center

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It’s freakin’ Hairspray! You probably know what to expect or at least know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s an outrageously fun musical with endless upbeat singing and dancing that will sure to have you moving around in your seat till the final curtain fall. It’s a different class of Broadway. This is not your Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera type of show, but a campy light-hearted flashy production that has all aspects of what an enjoyable night at the theater is all about.

I’m going to assume that most people reading this knows Hairspray. In case you don’t, Hairspray is based off the original NewLine Cinema film directed by John Waters. Yes, that’s the one with Ricki Lake. This current production is based off Jack O’Brien’s original direction and Jerry Mitchell’s original choreography recreated by Matt Lenz and Danny James Austin. This production of Hairspray is said to stay true to the original production.

Hairspray contains wide variety of colorful characters that add up to one fantastic cast. The show builds with stronger songs, funnier scenes, and crazier choreography to bring the musical to a show-stopping climax with Hairspray’s most popular song; “You Can’t Stop the Beat”. Oh no, I already have it stuck in my head again. It’s going to take me awhile till I have this one out of my head.

This may just be a ‘funtastical’ trip through the 60’s, but its plot contains a deep significance to America’s past racial problems. It’s a time when ginormous poofed up hairdos were all the rage and teenagers all over the nation would hurry home to watch their favorite American Bandstand type shows, but among the glitz and glitter of television was the messages sneaked into the boob-tube glued children. Tracy Turnblad was one of these teenagers whose dream in life was to dance on The Corny Collins Show, but due to her expanding waistline she wasn’t going to cut it. That’s until she got her chance to dance in front of the shows stars. It’s when she realizes that the princess of the show and her diabolical mother has the outs for her and all the Negros (remember, it’s 1962) from dancing on the show, which makes Tracy try to integrate the show herself.

Okay, there’s a whole lot more to it than that of course including a love story between Tracy and one of The Corny Collins Show Stars, Link Larkin, and who can forget the cross-dressing behemoth of a “mother” that deep down wants to be a plus sized fashion designer but hasn’t left the house in years. It all ties down wonderfully to create a wickedly creative story with a crazy set of characters.

The actor who played Tracy’s “mother,” Edna (Greg London) was performing his first night in the production and ended up stealing the show! I was very pleased with his performance along with his Saturday Night Live style breakout into laughter that he couldn’t hold back. I have a feeling that due to the nature of this character that it usually ends up becoming the hit of the show anyway, although I do feel that he deserved the praise. It was clear he can pull of many different types of characters, but especially a giant distressed mother.

As for Tracy however, I was a little disappointed in her singing abilities. Danielle Arci started off the performance of Tracy poor with a weak version of “Good Morning Baltimore”. I became nervous hoping that I would quickly grow fond of her acting. Luckily, none of the other songs besides the beginning of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” felt as bad as the first song. What she lacked in vocals was definitely made up in her portrayal of the character and acting ability. Her facial expressions were priceless and risque body movements that have come to be known with the character were well executed. There were other moments where she left it up to the rest of the cast to sing their way through songs, but perhaps it was better than having the high-pitched teenage voice of Tracy lingering throughout.

I never knew how dirty Hairspray was until tonight. There are many areas that were far dirtier than I expected, however are cleverly done so the younger members of the audience will not understand. However, good luck explaining why the mother is guy dressed up in drag the whole show.

The role of the fathers seems difficult to pull off well, but Mark A. Harmon did a fine job. I found his lines to be a little awkward and frankly not funny, but Harmon brought it during the “(You’re) Timeless to Me” number with the mother.

I found the second act to have far stronger songs as well as a better pace and funnier lines, but the first act still does contain some classics while having to deal with more story development. You’ll really light up during some of the fantastic second act dance numbers and superb singing. It’s a quick second act partly due by its faster pace within scenes. Just wait until the final number really gets started! It’s fifteen minutes (est.) of pure solid entertainment.

Really, Hairspray is your perfect get-a-way from your everyday grind type of show that has lots of laughs and plenty of catchy tunes. It’s a bright and cheery musical that will leave you humming the songs as you exit. It did win a Best Musical Tony Award after all. Rrrgggg… I can’t stop the beat!

Hairspray is now performing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center until April 11th. Tickets start at $20 and are available at The Center Box Office 10am – 5pm daily, online at, or by phone at (714) 556-2787.