You can’t stop the beat with Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore’s SENSATIONAL production of Hairspray!
Adapted from the 1988 John Waters film, Hairspray revolves around a “pleasantly plump” teenager named Tracy Turnblad who dreams of becoming famous and fights to racially integrate The Corny Collins Show in 1962 Baltimore.
It’s a beautiful day as Tracy wakes up, walks to school as she sings “Good Morning Baltimore.” She isn’t judgmental of her neighbors, including the town drunk, flasher, and even the rats on the street. Tracy loves life and loves Baltimore! Celia Blitzer as Tracy is a delight as she portrays this big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart.
While Tracy is in school, her mother Edna Turnblad is busy running a laundry business out of their home. Lawrence B. Munsey continues the tradition of this role being played by a man. With a female body suit and costumes by Mr. Munsey himself, he tastefully and gracefully plays this comedic role, most recently seen on film portrayed by John Travolta.
Unlike some of the other productions I have seen of Hairspray, under the careful direction of Lawrence B. Munsey, Toby’s tones down the characters just a shade to be less cartoonish and more realistic. One character in particular that was more meaningful to me was Chad Wheeler as Corny Collins, the Dick Clark-like host of The Corny Collins Show. There was a fine line between cartoonish and realistic and he never crossed it, even while still being “corny” in trying to get people to choose Tracy as Miss Teenage Hairspray and his effort to have his show racially integrated.
As the producer of The Corny Collins Show, Velma Von Tussle (Elizabeth Rayca) pushes her daughter, Amber (Katie Heidbreder) to seek the stardom that she never had. In “Miss Baltimore Crabs,” Velma is auditioning new dancers for the show while bragging how she so cunningly clinched the title of Miss Baltimore Crab. Skipping school to attend the dance auditions, Tracy was quickly harassed by Velma for being “too short and stout.”
In one of the best set designs I have seen at Toby’s Baltimore, David A. Hopkins takes us to the Turnblad’s home in Hampden, Wilbur Turnblad’s (Charlie Abel) Har-De-Har Hut Joke Shop, complete with a very clever gag that I won’t reveal, and a life-size bottle of hairspray. But most impressive of all are Brady Bunch-like blocks with silhouette’s of performer’s, lit with colorful shades of purple, pink, and blue by lighting designer, Lynn Joslin.
The hummable tunes by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (the same composer’s from TV’s hit show, SMASH) will leave you singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” for at least three weeks after watching this show! Other memorable songs like “I Can Hear the Bells,” “Welcome to the 60’s,” “I Know Where I’ve Been, ” and “You’re Timeless to Me” come-to-life with the live 6 piece orchestra led by the talented Brant Challacombe and dances brightly choreographed by Christen Svingos.
Toby’s strong supporting cast includes, Amanda Kaplan as the perky and dorky best friend of Tracy, Penny Pingleton; Austin Colby as the teenage heartthrob, Link Larkin who falls in love with Tracy; Kelli Blackwell as the “big, blonde and beautiful” host of “Negro Day” on The Corny Collins Show, Motormouth Maybelle; David Little as Seaweed J. Stubs, the son of Motorbouth Maybelle who falls in love with Penny.
So Hon, leave those dirty dishes in the “zinc,” “worsh” your face with some “wooter,” and drive on over to Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore to see their beehive hair-raising live musical production of Hairspray before the beat stops this July!
Hairspray plays through July 1, 2012 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore, 5625 O’Donnell Street in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call 410-730-8311, or purchase them online.