Better and more engaging than the 2007 movie, Hairspray works perfectly as a musical, celebrating a powerful message with singing, dancing, and the joy of togetherness.
By John Lavitt
Costa Mesa, CA (The Hollywood Times) 04/25/23 – At the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the tradition of great musicals continues with Hairspray. Made famous by the 2007 movie version with John Travolta in drag as Edna Turnblad and Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, the musical version is even better. Overflowing with energy, effervescence, enthusiasm, and excitement, the show is a perfect night out at the theatre. Tickets are still available for this fun show, and you can’t stop the beat from enlightening your soul and broadening your smile.
As Tracy Turnblad, Niki Metcalf is a wonderful lead with a powerful voice. Indeed, her singing leads the way from beginning to end as the balance between her contagious celebrations and plaintive cries captures the show’s, emotional heart. Nothing less than the conscience of the storyline, Niki Metcalf conveys her rational humanitarianism clearly and concisely to the audience. When it comes down to the brass tacks, the girl simply makes good sense.
Playing her mom, Andrew Levitt (AKA Nina West) is fabulous as Edna Turnblad. The actor blows the memory of Travolta out of the water with a bigger presence and more diverse comic chops. Beyond being dynamic and emotional, Levitt also provides the big dramatic waves when the drama needs to crash on the shore of the storyline. By playing it over the top without losing the connection to the audience, Levitt delivers a big performance with surprising delicacy and precision.
Although every member of the diverse and talented ensemble could be highlighted, one more name demands recognition. As Tracy’s best friend, Penny Pingleton, Emery Henderson is a quiet revelation. Beyond supporting her friend, Penny’s relationship with Seaweed J. Stubbs (Charlie Bryant III) energizes the second half of the storyline with a forbidden love story that will not be stopped. Together, they defy race conventions in a manner that transforms both actors, allowing them to blossom and shine.
From beginning to end, joy and excitement flood the stage as the ensemble cast of Hairspray goes all out while dancing and singing. Unlike the movie, the musical does not get bogged down in politics. Instead, the performances express the politics, heightening the message by removing the obvious and accentuating the fun. Nothing is better than learning while smiling because the lesson is valued on a more profound level. Indeed, if you want your kids to learn a valuable lesson while having a great time out at the theatre, Hairspray is the way to go.