Review submitted by Abby Wei of Thomas S. Wootton High School.
Northwood High school’s ambitious production of “Hairspray” enthusiastically brings the audience to a time where girls were sentenced to detention for styling their hair too high, hairspray was inhaled more than oxygen and swimming in integrated pools was frowned upon: welcome to the 60s!
Winner of eight Tony Awards and adapted from the 1988 John Waters film, this eminent and timeless musical follows the bouncy steps of dancing star-wannabe Tracy Turnblad (Blake Johnson)in her quest for fame, as she often finds herself a victim of discriminated because of her weight. When Tracy lands a coveted spot on a local TV dance program, she becomes an overnight celebrity. Tracy’s desire for racial equality on the show meets with extreme backlash from the show’s perfidious producer, Velma Von-Tussle (Genesis Lemus) and her snobby daughter, Amber (Yaya Balbed). Tracy decides that equality is more important than fame, and, at the risk of losing her spot on the program, recruits the African American dancing community to end Velma’s reign of racism on the show.
Laura Goemann, who played Tracy’s ditzy sidekick, Penny, was consistently in character throughout the show, something other students had trouble with. Goemann’s comic adroitness allowed her to play the part of Penny to a tee, and her chemistry with forbidden love interest, African-American Seaweed Stubbs (Jamaal Bowman), was sweet and believable. Bowman’s impressive vocals and smooth dance moves made him an enjoyable performer to watch. Celene Daniels played Seaweed’s sister Little Inez with an inordinate amount of sass, eliciting peals of laughter from the audience. Another hilarious actress was Briannon DeLuca, who portrayed both the sadistic Gym Teacher and the commanding Matron with prodigious stage presence and perfect comedic timing. Although at times some performers had trouble finding their pitch in numbers, Genesis Lemus and Yaya Balbed revealed fine vocal abilities in impressive renditions of their respective solo numbers, “Miss Baltimore Crabs” and “Cooties.”
Arturo Arzemendia, who portrayed council member Sketch, was one of the best performers in the show. Arzemendia flawlessly executed triple pirouettes and double stag leaps multiple times during the performance with effortless precision. He nailed graceful turns in powerful numbers such as Motormouth Maybelle’s “I Know Where I’ve Been” (sung by Cindy Ndebumadu), and he brought unparalleled energy to upbeat numbers like “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Arzemendia’s commanding stage presence and keen eye for small dance details lifted the performance quality to another level.
Although there were some problems with the lighting, the set design was well done. A clever T.V. frame was lowered down from the ceiling during the dance program scenes, and the tech crew made good use of the blank screen at the back of the stage, using colors and black-and-white movie clips to enhance scenes. The orchestra was phenomenal; the saxophone and drum solos that were played during scene changes were impressive and above the average high school level. The pit as a whole tried their best to accommodate the singers above in rhythm and in pitch.
Although there were some technical and performance bumps during the show, the students of Northwood High School pulled together a satisfying rendition of this beloved musical, illustrating the power of “Hairspray”- nothing can stop its successful beat.
The performance reviewed was from Saturday, 11/22/2014.
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