Stage 62 takes audiences back to the 1960s in their latest production of Hairspray. The musical is based on John Waters’s 1988 film of the same name. With its six-year run on Broadway, eight Tony Awards, and a film adaptation in 2007, Hairspray has cemented itself in the musical theatre hall of fame and in the hearts of millions. Although hitting a few bumps along the way, Stage 62’s take on the Broadway juggernaut keeps the fun of the show alive with the help of a stellar cast.
Set in 1960s Baltimore, Hairspray follows Tracy Turnblad, a vivacious high school student who dreams of becoming a dancer on The Corny Collins Show. After landing a spot on the show she becomes an overnight sensation and trendsetter in dance, fashion, and body positivity. Tracy and her friends soon take The Corny Collins Show by storm as they fight for racial equality, acceptance, and love.
The show currently runs at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Musical Hall. No matter if you’re sitting in the balcony or on the floor, you always have a great view of the stage and feel up close to the action. The only negative I found with this venue was the stage itself. I think the production was restricted to the venue’s small stage, and felt the show could’ve benefited from a larger space to showcase the choreography and sets.
The costumes, hair, and makeup all felt authentic to the time period, although at times I missed the absurd, huge hairstyles of the Broadway production. Some of the costumes were identical to their Broadway counterparts, which I found impressive. Edna easily has the best costumes of the show, and it’s obvious they tried to go as over-the-top as they could with them. The sets however were a tad lacking. As I mentioned, the stage is small, so they didn’t have a ton of room to work with. However, Hairspray is supposed to be bright, colorful, and vibrant, and I didn’t get that from most of the set pieces. While I commend them for working with the space they had, I wish they hadn’t been afraid to have more fun with the sets.
Hairspray is packed with a delightful cast who deliver fun, animated performances. One of the best performances of the night was from Edna Turnblad, played by Mother Oak. She had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand, and commanded the stage the second she stepped on it. A
fabulous performance full of personality and charisma, Mother Oak is hands down one of the best Edna’s I’ve seen in awhile. Caroline Connell is a spectacular Tracy Turnblad, whose performance is equal to that of Broadway and touring companies. She has Tracy’s voice, character, and mannerisms down to a T, and is an overall wonderful leading lady. Michelle Johnson is a big, blonde, and beautiful Motormouth Maybelle, and delivers a beautiful, moving rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been in Act Two. Supporting actors Joyce Hinnebusch and Cody Sweet play the majority of the female and male authority figures in the show, and it’s clear they have a ton of fun doing so. They’re hilarious in every role they take on, and were both incredibly entertaining to watch. Special shout out to The Dynamites played by Delana Flowers, Mikayla Gilmer, and Paige Moody, who helped make Welcome to the ‘60s one of the best numbers in the show. Their strong voices and style helped enhance the number and made it one of the highlights of the evening.
While I enjoyed the production, at times the show lacked the high energy and vibrancy that Hairspray is known for. While there were standout performances from the cast, I felt as an ensemble there was a lack of spark and unity. The cast succeeds in numbers such as “The Nicest Kids in Town,” “Welcome to the ‘60s,” and “The Big Dollhouse,” where it’s evident the cast is putting all their energy into the performance. However, I found parts of the show lacked the right energy to match the upbeat, fun nature of the music. If the effort and energy stayed consistent throughout the entire show, it could have sent the production to new heights.
Hairspray reminds us all to celebrate what make us unique, and to not let our differences divide us. It’s also an upbeat, humorous show that the whole family can enjoy together. While this particular production doesn’t always hit the right notes, it makes up for it with exceptional performances and tremendous heart. Whether you’ve been a longtime fan of Hairspray, or have just been introduced to it, you’ll surely enjoy Stage 62’s production of this hair-raising musical.
Hairspray plays at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Musical Hall through November 24. For tickets, visit their homepage.
Photography Credit: Friedman Wagner-Dobler of Image 42
Jade Goodes is a graduate of Penn State University where she received her degree in English. While attending Penn State she became the Managing Editor for the school’s literary & arts magazine, Absence. Jade has been involved with the Pittsburgh theater community since elementary school, and has performed in many productions over the years. In her free time she enjoys reading and attending all the concerts she can.
Categories: Archived Reviews