“HAIRSPRAY:” YOU CAN’T STOP THE BALTIMORE BEAT


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Tracy Turnblad is a chunky teenager who loves to dance like other sixteen year olds. But in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, her big-sized hair and bigger-sized heart are on a mission: to integrate The Corny Collins TV Dance Show so whites and blacks can bogey and bop on the same stage.

 

Ivoryton Playhouse is igniting one super duper special production of “Hairspray The Broadway Musical” with book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meechan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman until Sunday, July 29. This sparkly, bright musical will grab your dance card and fill it to the brim with energy and verve, promoting the importance of family, friends and community.

 

Jill Sullivan’s Tracy is bubbly and effervescent as she tries out for a coveted spot on Corny Collins’ show, taking her best bud Penny (Abby Hart) along for moral support, and the encouragement of her father, a neat Neal Mayer and, a little more reluctantly, her mom Edna, brought to brilliance in the hands and hips of a larger-than-life Michael Barra.

 

Barra, whose parents live in Middletown, has been having quite a sweep of good luck as he was recently on the red carpet promoting his role in the new movie “The Amazing Spider-Man” where he plays a shop clerk, T-Bone.

 

While Tracy does not set out to win the title of Miss Hair Spray 1962, a contest sought polished tooth and nail by Amber Von Tussle (Bethany Fitzgerald) with the steamroller help of her mom Velma (Tara Michelle Gesling), she does have her eye on the teenage heart throb Link Larkin, a bodacious Justin Gerhard.

 

Everyone has a lot at stake when Tracy fights the system to make everyday Negro day on the dance show. In the process, she goes to jail, her dad risks the mortgage on his Har de Har Hut, a magic shop, while her mom confesses she always wanted to design dresses for queen-size ladies rather than take in other people’s laundry.

 

Tracy’s school chum Seaweed (Gregory Lawrence Gardner) introduces her to his dynamic mom Motormouth Maybelle, fiery in the vocal cords of Karen Anderson, to help the cause of equality. A willing Corny Collins (Sam Schrader), a versatile R. Bruce Connelly as everyone from principal to police guard to hair spray sponsor to clothing line leader and an authoritative and take-charge Melissa McLean as Penny’s mom, the gym teacher and the prison warden.

 

The show opens with a lively “Good Morning, Baltimore,” goes on to feature a trio of mothers and daughters belting out “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now,” does a sweet ballad of “I Can Hear the Bells” when Tracy meets Link, sashays into a cozy duet by Wilbur and Edna “You’re Timeless to Me” and ends on the bouncy rhythms of “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” with a lot of great tunes packed in between.

 

Jacqueline Hubbard directs an enthusiastic cast with skill, on a colorful and clever set designed by Cully Long, with a kaleidoscope of costumes by Vivianna Lamb.

 

For tickets ($40, seniors $35, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

Do the fish, the pony or the monkey as you dance your way down the aisle of the Ivoryton Playhouse to cheer Tracy on as she leads a conga line to make all her dreams come true.

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