Hairspray: A Whimsical Night at the Theatre with Important Life Lessons

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Hairspray:? A Whimsical Night at the Theatre with an Important Life Lesson

Racial issues are as visible a concern today as they were in 1962, the setting year of the new Charleston Stage production of Hairspray.

The extreme nature of assembly, protest and action may have changed over the years, but the need for awareness and acceptance continues to ring true.? The Charleston Stage adaptation of Hairspray has successfully brought this to the forefront with color, musical celebration and a closing number that will have the entire audience standing in celebration.

The background of the Baltimore skyline married the styles of Escher and Picasso, bringing a feeling of animation and reality into one.? Costume design played a vital character in this production with rich colors creating a rainbow tapestry with each dance number.? Finally, a cast resembling young versions of Alan Freed, the Beach Boys and James Brown shined in this coming of age musical comedy.

The story is simple, girl loves to dance; girl meets boy; girl is white, boy is black; they inspire each other; girl fights the establishment and in the end, it doesn’t matter if you are black or white because love and passion see no color and life is a celebration of love.

The script, scenes and the acting are all conducted with a comical flare to release the pressure of the topic matter.? In the end, the audience is taken for a ride powered by music, comedy and compassion.

It was a site unlike most during the final musical performance when the entire audience and we mean not a butt to a chair danced in the aisle while rocketing a series of claps and screams.? Pure theatre admiration from the orchestra to the balcony.

The show stopper occurred in act two during one moving scene when Motormouth Maybelle, played by Letty Clay who stands no more than five foot nothing belted an emotional rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” outlining her plight as a black woman in America in the 20th century.? As she hit the high notes like a hundred canons firing at once, the entire audience roared in approval.

Under the direction of Marybeth Clark, her and her team chose a cast that complimented each other well in song, dance and dialogue.? In two beautiful debut performances, Lakeisha Gamble (Lil’ Inez), an 11th? grade student and attendee at the School of the Arts and T’voris Singleton (Stooie) a 23 year old in his first production both shined on stage like professional stars.

Pen Chance tackled the roll of Edna Turnblad, the mother of our lead heroine with the same charm and charisma as previous actors that have taken on this challenging role.

Lara Allred (Velma Von Tussle) as the former beauty queen turned producer whose narrow minded views on black and white culture transformed well.? Of course, Maggie Saunders took on the leading role of Tracy Turnblad, a complex teenager whose simplicity in a world of complexity taught us all that beauty is truly on the inside.

For two hours of explosive color, full stage choreographed dance and music and lyrics celebrating life, love and dreams, this is the production for you.? ?You will be taken to where pop and R&B come together as one with major life lessons.? Come out to see Hairspray at the Historic Dock Street Theatre.

Hairspray is playing September 7 – 25 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre