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July 10, 2018 > Hairspray: Big, bright, and beautiful

Hairspray: Big, bright, and beautiful

By Julie Grabowski

Stage 1 Theatre and Ohlone Summerfest rewind the clock to 1962 Baltimore where kids are dancing the Stricken Chicken, The Madison, and Peyton Place After Midnight and securing their towering hairdos with gallons of Ultra Clutch Hairspray.

Dance-crazed, plus-size girl Tracy Turnblad and her best friend Penny are devoted to The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program which features teen heartthrob Link Larkin. When there is an opening for a new girl on the show, Tracy is determined to audition, though her mother Edna, who is ashamed of her own weight, warns her, ?They don?t put people like us on television ? except to be laughed at.?

But size isn?t the only thing to overcome on The Corny Collins Show. The all-white program allows a token Negro Day once a month, and Tracy thinks it?s stupid that everyone can?t dance together and wants to ?make every day Negro Day.? And when she wins over Corny Collins and lands on the show, that?s just what she?s determined to do. Corny thinks Tracy?s arrival is the perfect launch to integrating the show, saying, ?It?s time we put kids on the show who look like the kids who watch the show.? But controlling, racist producer Velma Von Tussle thinks the show is just fine as is and will do anything she can to prevent change.

With her big heart, big hair, and indomitable spirit, Tracy challenges stereotypes and social norms and chases love in the unique world of colorful characters, playful, upbeat songs and dance that is the Tony-Award winning musical ?Hairspray.?

Director Gary Ferguson presents a candy shop of a production with seamless weaving of elements that create a visual and aural party. Fred Alim?s set design takes us through Tracy?s Baltimore with plenty of texture, color, and interest, while costume designer Isaac Booth parades a bevy of fun and fabulous fashions with some choice Corny Collins suits and a wonderful butterfly-inspired dress for Tracy. The show is also supported by excellent live orchestration under the direction of Josh Milbourne.

Jamie Gussman?s energy and enthusiasm make a strong, likable Tracy, and Randall Watts has no trouble working a dress and a towering hairdo as Edna. He has you firmly in her corner as she struggles to accept herself and revive her dreams, moving beyond the view of herself as ?a mere housewife of indeterminable girth.? Greg Lynch nicely rounds out the Turnblad family as zany joke shop owner Wilbur who encourages Tracy to follow her dreams. Watts and Lynch are a sweet, off-beat pair, best shown in ?You?re Timeless to Me.?

Melissa Momboisse makes geeky, gum chewing Penny an instant favorite with her easy, relentless spot-on humor and fun, and budding romance with the smooth dancing Seaweed (Justin Daily). Allie Townsend is a shiny, full-service package of evil delight. She wears Velma?s privilege and superiority with surety and displays excellent vocals in ?Miss Baltimore Crabs.?

Mauriah McHenry scores big points as Little Inez, proving a crowd favorite in ?Run and Tell That? and further impressing with her gymnastic moves in ?You Can?t Stop the Beat.? Dane Lentz is a solid Corny Collins, Ashley Rose Mulfich fits the bill as ?plastic little spastic? mean girl Amber, and Max Cordoba?s Link is sweet and a fitting match with Gussman.

?Welcome to the ?60s? is arguably the hit of Act 1, the encouraging anthem delivering a dramatic makeover, a band of pink fashionistas, and the wonderful shimmering Dynamites (Marissa Madan, Jackie Bolivar, Jasmine Mallory).

While racism and body image are serious matters, ?Hairspray? treats them with a very light touch. However, Act 2 gets some brief added weight with the inclusion of a video clip of Martin Luther King, Jr.?s ?I Have a Dream? speech. The gravity is further solidified by the song which follows, ?I Know Where I?ve Been,? sung by the remarkable Juanita Harris (Motormouth Maybelle), who brought audience members to their feet. Harris is also a showstopper in ?Big, Blond and Beautiful.?

?You Can?t Stop the Beat? is the perfect finish to a tale which affirms that color, weight, or hair height doesn?t determine our value or diminish the power of our dreams, passions, and love.

Friday, Jul 6 ? Saturday, Jul 21
ASL Interpreted Jul 19
8 p.m.
Smith Center Amphitheatre at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd, Fremont
(510) 659-6031
Tickets: $30 adults, $27 students/seniors, $15 youth under 17
Parking: $4

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