Theatre ReviewsTom Williams


Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehanhairspraaylogo2

Music by Marc Shaiman

Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman

Directed & Choreographedby Marc Robin

At the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire

Hairspray is a sweet musical treat

Hairspray is one of great pop/rock musical of all-time! It is a satisfying neon cartoon so sweet it melts your heart. This is a major Broadway musical with all the bells and whistles. It looks great with colorful costumes, bright lights; it sings wonderfully, is richly funny and dances up a storm. Under Marc Robin’s tight direction, his superb cast makes this show a dance delight. It is another Marriott Theatre triumph!

Based on the 1988 John Waters camp film designed for Devine, Hairspray takes place in 1962 – the 50’s are out and change is in the air but innocence still abounds. Baltimore’s Tracy Tumblad (Marissa Perry), a big girl with big hair (and lot’s of hairspray) and an even larger heart, compulsive about dancing. She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show” and, quickly, is transformed from nerd girl to local teen celebrity. We witness this plus size girl try to win the heart of cutie Link Larkin (Billy Harrington Tighe) and integrate the TV show and vanquish the reigning princess and her nasty mother. The result is an evening of fun, laughter and fabulous show-stopping dance numbers. Better than Bye, Bye Birdie and Grease, Hairspray is the ultimate ‘baby-boomer’ musical. I can relate to the era (I graduated high school in 1962) and Hairspray speaks to me in a theatrical fantasy romp. It is pure nostalgia. This show reaches everyone. It is a toe-tapping spoof of the innocence of the early 1960’s.

Hairspray- Marissa Perry as Tracy

Hairspray won 8 Tony Awards – Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Director, Best Actress in a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical and Best Costume Design in 2003. Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan wisely took the best of what made the film a cult classic and added in new ideas to create a story that is timeless (the need to fit in), funny (without having to rely on vulgarity or cheap laughs), socially significant (tackling prejudice based on both race and body type), romantic and the perfect balance of reality and camp.

The score by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman contains songs uniformly possessing infectiously energizing melodies, skillfully crafted lyrics complete with witty double meanings, and toe-tapping rhythms that are simply irresistible. It is refreshing to hear rock based songs sung so as to understand the lyrics. The songs mirror the musical styles of the period, including old-fashion rock-n’-roll, R & B, gospel with some Broadway and vaudeville thrown in.

The show opens with “Good Morning Baltimore”  where we meet Tracey, played by Marissa Perry who  sings nicely, dances divinely and she possesses enough charm and cuteness to woo audiences. Her energy is infectious and she knows how to garner a laugh or two.

Ross Lehman wisely doesn’t try to imitate the huge presence that Harvey Fierstein gave Edna in the original Broadway production. Rather Lehman knows how to get laughs yet he is believable as Tracey’s mother. Lehman delivers several effective moments, especially in his duet with Wilbur (Gene Weygandt), the vaudevillian love song duet “Timeless To Me” —a tribute to old-time vaudevillian tradition.

In Hairspray, dance rules. Not since 42nd Street has Broadway witnessed more alive, high-voltage dance numbers. With outstanding choreography from Marc Robin flawlessly performed full-blast by an exemplary ensemble led by Josh Breckenridge, as Seaweed J. Stubbs, and Billy Harrington Tighe, as Link, the pretty boy who sings and dances into Tracy’s heart. The dancer ensemble blasts each number with a controlled abandonment! There are so many show-stoppers in Hairspray, my hands hurt from clapping!

E. Faye Butler as Motormouth Maybelle belts effectively with her spirited and poignant song “I Know Where I’ve Been.” The “Welcome to the 60’s” number is MoTown revisited. “Without Love” is a classic rock ballad and the finale, “You Can Stop the Beat” instantly became one of the most memorable Broadway finales ever.

The terrific cast features Heidi Kettenring (Penny Pingleton), Bernie Yvon (Corny Collins), Hollis Resnik (Velma Von Tussle) and Johanna McKenzie Miller (Amber Von Tussle).

Hairspray is a plus size beehive of entertainment with a warm message, an innocent heart that never tries to be anything but a cheerful cartoon fable. Full of funny lines, self-help messages and warm characters, Hairspray is a universal show that leaves you with a smile on your face as you dance down the aisle. The bubblegum sweetness of Hairspray is old-fashion heart, something cynics abhor but audiences crave. Hairspray proves that the Broadway musical is alive and flourishing. The rousing ending will leave you breathless. Marriott Theatre’s production is first–class in every way.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Marriott Theatre, Rt. 45 & Rt 21, Lincolnshire, IL, tickets $45, call 847-634-0200,, Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m, running time is 2 ours, 20 minutes with intermission.

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