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Dreamy: (l-r) Pulver and Rousouli in Hairspray.

Nothing But Fun

By James Yeara

Hairspray

Book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, music by Marc Shaiman, Directed by Matt Lenz

Proctor’s Theatre, through March 25

What’s colorful, loud, fast, funny, and shticky, with music and lyrics by the same man partially responsible (with Trey Parker) for the music and lyrics of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut? What’s the winner of the 2003 Tony Award for Best Musical, the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, and opening as a December 2007 movie starring John Travolta? What’s based on a 1988 John Waters movie that starred Ricki Lake, and is currently playing at Proctor’s Theatre? What’s literally a ton of fun and tastier than sticky buns?

Hairspray is the word. Fresh from its shows in Ottawa, Ontario, this non-Equity production of the smash Broadway hit will be teasing in Schenectady until Sunday when it curls away to Wilmington, Del. The capacity audience at Tuesday’s opening didn’t care if the production values were threadbare; a young cast with lots of energy (on their first national tour with the satirical musical), bright lights and costumes, and a beehive full of hysterical characters would make anyone who paid $60 a ticket believe this is a Broadway-caliber show.

And it is tons of fun. Think Grease plus four years. Hairspray tells the story of fubsy 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad (a smartly named Brooklynn Pulver) and her improbable quest to dance on Baltimore’s hit 1962 teen TV show The Corny Collins Show, a manufactured bit of peppy fluff worthy of the Disney Channel. Aided by her quirky, skinny best friend Penny Pingleton (a delightfully funny Alyssa Malgeri), the duo overcome the machinations of über-blonde Velma Von Tussle (Happy McPartlin), the Corny show’s producer, and her über-dumb-blonde daughter Amber Von Tussle (Pearl Thomas) to win the Miss Teen Hairspray award for 1962. They also integrate The Corny Collins Show, get the heart, lips, and other relevant parts of the male anatomy of the show’s teen heartthrob Link Larkin (Constantine Rousouli), and thoroughly entertain an audience.

They succeed at it all. The music is 1962 rock-and-pop perfection, smile-inducing and foot-tapping. From the opening feel-good anthem “Good Morning Baltimore” (“Every day is like an open door”) to the sweet “I Can Hear the Bells” to the showstopping “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” Hairspray is get-up-out-of-your-seat fun. Christian White as Seaweed J. Stubbs, the black teen who teaches Tracy some dance steps, and Penny some bedroom moves to fully integrate Baltimore, is stand-out excellent in a production full of people with a lot of energy and smiles. It may not be Broadway quality, but it is cheaper, closer, and briefer.

 


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