I was totally stoked when I was invited to review Hairspray at The Beck Center for the Arts! Other than Jerry Springer The Opera (which was in the smaller studio theater) this would be my first musical at the Lakewood institution. The larger but still intimate Mackey Main Stage was decked out in a stunning, bright, 60′s TV style proscenium, but the real surprises came as the curtain opened on “Good Morning Baltimore.”
The story takes place in 1960′s Baltimore as the bouffant rocking, spunky, energetic, “plump” Tracy Turnblad attempts to racially integrate her favorite TV show. Kent senior Brittany Lynne Eckstrom commanded the lead role with an energy and experience beyond her age. She delivered her lines with perfect timing and was extremely relatable. Her vocal prowess was perfect for the lead role in a large scale production. She makes it look effortless.
Up next is Beck Center alumni Matthew Ryan Thompson (Altar Boyz, Joseph…, Jerry Springer) as the friendly, somewhat hokey host of the Corny Collins Show! Thompson’s versatility amazes me in each role I see him in. He steals the stage as Collins and is not only entertaining but believable. After Sunday’s performance Matthew informed me that his cheesy DJ voice is based on mine…not sure how I feel about that, but I’ll take it!
No stage family is complete without a Mom with a deep voice and ‘boy parts’ right? Kevin Joseph Kelly absolutely rocked the house as Tracy’s caring, supportive, feisty mother Edna Turnblad…and did it all in heels and a dress! Drag queens are notoriously campy and hard to believe, Kelly broke that stereotype and played the character with expert comedic timing and an emotional depth that kept me torn between tears and laughter each time she…um…he was on stage.
The person standing in the way of Tracy’s integration plan is an uptight, shallow, racist, aging beauty queen named Velma Von Tussell who produces Corny’s TV show. How can you possibly make this horrible person relatable and entertaining? Cast Laurel Held! Von Tussel seemed (to me) to be a difficult role to bring depth to, but Held owned it and added her own spark to the shows villain. Oh yeah, and she can sing!
Helping Tracy learn to dance is Seaweed. Antwaun Holley absolutely brings the house down as Tracy’s handsome partner in crime. His vocals, smile, dance moves and raw sex appeal (skin-tight pants and all) were extremely appealing and unforgettable! This guy is a star!
In the 2007 film the role of Motormouth Maybelle was played by the incredible Queen Latifah. At the Beck the role is played by the equally talented Tina D. Stump. Her renditions of “Big, Blonde & Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been” will leave you speechless. This is due in part to Larry Goodpaster‘s backstage orchestra. The music on this show is presented effortlessly and with expert musical style.
There were a few performances that were a little weak, but thankfully they didn’t drag the rest of the show down with them. However, the actors I had a problem with were not veteran performers…so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Just keep working at it! Oh, and a special shout-out to former Q104 DJ Dani Lynn AKA Danita Jackson for her role as Lorraine! Get it girl!
The effective and eye catching set design (Ben Needham), transformative lighting (Trad A. Burns) and superior choreography (Martin Cespedes) were immediately noticeable and I found myself immersed in the show before the first number finished…which is kind of a big deal.
The quality of the principle performers, the hilarious, heartfelt story and awesome score make this show more than worth the ticket price. Director Scott Spence‘ Hairspray is an extremely well produced show that will send you out into the night tapping your feet and fixing your mascara. Do not miss this show!
Hairspray runs weekends through August 14th at Beck Center For The Arts. For tickets and information head to BeckCenter.org
The views and opinions of Kory are his alone and do not necessarily represent the views of CBS Radio or Q104.