Hairspray January 26, 2008
By Glen Creason
It’s hard to know where to start in describing the production of the musical “Hairspray” that came, saw and totally conquered Cerritos over the weekend. Apparently, everyone in these parts, except me, knew what a great show this was before the fact, evidenced by the totally sold-out throngs at each performance. Springing from the twisted mind of that genius of bad taste, John Waters this musical is a hybrid that has evolved into a wonderfully fun and high-voltage song and dance-a-thon with a conscience. You might be fooled early into thinking it is just a nostalgic frolic set in the halcyon days of the early sixties but “Hairspray” has some serious levels and ends up sending a strong message that you just don’t expect on the colorful surface. Who would have thought a film filled with trashy fashion, the darkest kinds of humor and over-the-top action that featured a 300 lb. transvestite as the Mother would end up as a play that taught tolerance better than a bushel of essays on the subject. By the time act Two is half over it hits you that “Hairspray” is a true morality play about accepting and embracing our differences. It’s Pilgrim’s Progress with very big hair, go-go dancing and lots of 60’s dance music. At Cerritos, the strong show was absolutely sparkling thanks to an excellent cast throughout. This enthusiastic and multi-talented group sang, danced and delivered the comic lines with real flair. Act one kept you busy with the exposition of the plot and some really great large dance numbers but Act Two just turned the hall on its ear. The back-to-back numbers of “Timeless to Me” and the totally electrifying “I Know Where I’ve Been” turned the show from terrific to absolutely fantastic for the finishing kick. This truly is an ensemble piece but some players really took this production up from good to great. Leading the way was the lead big girl Tracy, played with an unbounded optimism and adorable enthusiasm by Brooklyn Pulver. You might actually feel sorry for Tracy at first as she tries to rise above the “fat-ism” of her peers but by the end of the show you just don’t see her weight anymore but really fall in love with the character, just as it is suggested in the story. Jerry O’Boyle as Tracy’s Mom Edna was a powerhouse in the role that included a goodly amount of hoofing and singing for this rather large lady. Angela Birchett as “Motormouth Maybelle” just lit up the stage every time she had a scene and her singing of “I Know Where I’ve Been” really sent the production up an entire notch on this night. Constantine Rousouli as the dreamboat Link, Pearl Thomas as the spoiled princess Amber Von Tussle, the lithe Christian White as Seaweed, Arjana Andris in multiple roles, the spot on Dan Ferretti as Wilbur the Dad and Kristin Stewart as the evil Mom/station manager Velma were perfect in their demanding roles. Yet, strangely enough, like in a Hollywood movie it was a stand-in who stole the show at this performance. Sharon Malane as Penny Pingleton, the best pal of Tracy, just stood out in every way, transforming the loveable goofball pal into a shining example of open-mindedness and courage to explore life’s possibilities. Miss Malane was so good it was hard to take your eyes off her, even when she was in the middle of seventeen gyrating cast-members. “Hairspray” the stage musical, is actually much better than the movie or the movie musical. With the appealing Trudy so physically convincing and strong characters like Motormouth Maybelle and Seaweed showing the way the “lightweight” musical becomes much more.