In a musical like Hairspray, which depends on building up good feelings to overflowing, an ingratiating cast is essential. Standouts here for their sweetheart quotient are Shanahan as the adorable Penny and Sean McGuirk as the goodhearted Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy's dad, especially in a duet with Gleadow, "You're Timeless to Me." Considering that his love interest was in drag, the bit could have gone just for the ludicrous, but it was actually charming. Stacey Geer provided inventive characterizations. Not only was she a properly prudish Prudy, but she played a couple of mannish women, a gym teacher and a jail guard, with inoffensive good humor.

But as songs go, it's difficult to imagine closing a musical with more energizing life force than the spectacular "You Can't Stop the Beat," as the ensemble tears down the house. The audience didn't then pour into the street and promptly save the world with rock 'n' roll, but Hairspray certainly supplied them with all the inspiration that they would need to do so.

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