Chad Reviews "Hairspray"
I’ve never truly embraced the truly warped and “wonderful” world of John Waters. I know the man has a devoted following and most of his films tend to push the boundaries of morality and good taste to the point of earning X ratings, and when he decided to soften his approach to storytelling in an apparent effort to appeal to a more mainstream audience with “White Lipstick,” it would turn into “Hairspray”. Released in 1988 to moderate box office success and reaching cult status (much like most of Waters’ body of work), it found the majority of its success on home video while also becoming a critical darling, spawning multiple iterations with the most significant in a highly successful Tony Award-winning Broadway musical in 2002. Now a touring production, it has made its way to a quick run in Dallas at the Winspear Opera House.
This is the story of Tracy Turnblad (Michelle Dowdy), a feisty full-figured teen obsessed with a music/dance television program hosted by Corny Collins (Shane Allen). When the opportunity arises for Tracy to audition as a dancer for the show, she jumps at it, much to the delight of her closest friend Penny Pingleton (Taylor O’Toole) and her father Wilbur (Bob Reed) but met with resistance by her mother Edna (David Coffee), who fears that Tracy is only setting herself up for disappointment. Once Tracy meets the other cast-members face-to-face, she’s smitten by leading man Link Parkin (Joel Ingram) and spurned by leading lady Amber von Tussle (Deanna Ott) and the show’s producer and Amber’s mother Velma (Cara Serber). After realizing that she is facing rejection from the show she loves as well as the social injustice being inflicted in the segregated city she lives in, Tracy takes it upon herself to utilize the platform of the television show to bring awareness and unity to a community that so deeply needs it.
I had mixed feelings going into this, as I never sat through any of the previous versions of this production. It just seemed very shallow and silly on the surface and as I stated earlier, I’ve just never embraced the John Waters aesthetic. That being said, I was VERY pleasantly surprised with this production, instantly becoming a fan of Dowdy’s plucky portrayal of the wonderfully optimistic Tracy and the core values she represent, but once David Coffee delivers his first line as Edna, I was completely sold on this production. David’s portrayal is one of the most enjoyable performances I’ve had the privilege to witness on this or ANY stage, and the amazing chemistry between Coffee and Reed reaches an absolute high point with their hysterically funny number “You’re Timeless To Me” that had me smiling for the rest of the evening. Liz Mikel’s Motormouth Maybelle is another standout with a particularly moving performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been” that practically brought the house down. Overall, this is a truly memorable and delightful production that I would highly, happily and enthusiastically recommend.