Integration in Ogunquit

With a flashback to Laverne + Shirley
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  September 5, 2007

Hairspray | Based on the film by John Waters | Book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan; Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman | Directed and Choreographed by Donna Drake; Musical Direction by Brian Cimmet | Produced at the Ogunquit Playhouse through September 15 | 207.646.5511
Big, buoyant teenager Tracy Turnblad (Alison Faircloth) is dedicated to some big, buoyant propositions: First, she will make it into the dance “Council” on Corny Collins, Baltimore television’s local American Bandstand knock-off. Next, she will win over the show’s star heartthrob, Link (Colin Campbell McAdoo). And finally, by the time she’s done with Corny Collins, every day — not just one measly show a month — will be Negro Day. In short, in the Ogunquit Playhouse’s musical comedy Hairspray, based on the 1988 John Waters film (and just now, in a full-circle media involution, made back into a movie), Tracy proclaims her dream to gyrate, to date, and to integrate.

Tall orders all, particularly considering the cultural mood du jour of a pastel 1962 Baltimore (rendered in set designer Charles Kading’s pink, blue and lavender brick cityscape, adorned with pop-bright bubbles and platters), and extra-particularly when you’ve got an arch-nemesis like TV producer Velma Von Tussel (Susan Cella), who beyond her bigotry is the mother of a shallow skinny bitch, Amber, (Lindsay Devino, in a zinging blonde caricature), alpha-dancer on the show.

Luckily, Tracy has spunk, hair so huge it could almost fight her battles for her, and a whole slew of supporters. These include her excitably awkward best friend Penny (the very entertaining Alex Ellis, who does hilarious character work); Seaweed (Eric B. Anthony, with the smoothest moves on the whole stage), a black dancer she meets in detention, who teaches her the “Peyton Place After Midnight;” and all the other black kids who hang out and dance at the record store owned by Negro Day MC Motormouth Maybelle (Jacqueline B. Arnold, who’s got one mammoth voice). They all want Tracy to win Miss Hairspray 1962 instead of Amber, whose mother will cheat, lie, and screw her way to her daughter’s crowning. And together, in throwback ’60s-style numbers that are a sweet cross of nostalgia and gentle lampoon, they all sing and dance — fabulously — in support of both Tracy and wider cultural tolerance.

Also behind Tracy are her own eccentric but loving mom and dad — Edna, an obese washerwoman, and Wilbur, the fire-cracker owner of a gag store. And it’s with these two that Hairspray’s camp factor moves beyond the mild send-ups of ’60s bubblegum culture and into something, well, bigger. Edna is a role written for monumentally padded drag, and this production casts Ryan Landry, a prolific playwright, a comic who’s performed with Margaret Cho, and a one-time flaming-hoop-jumping Flying Nun. He gets Edna just right, playing her unapologetically her as a man playing a woman, and the portrayal is both thigh-slapping and sympathetic.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Performing Arts, John Waters,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   IT'S GOOD TO BE WITCH  |  September 19, 2014
    Trapped, suppressed, and unsatisfied with the small-mindedness of their small New England town, what are three divorcées of scandalous creative powers to do?
  •   PREPARE FOR THE FALL  |  September 18, 2014
    The season of theater at USM, Good Theater, Mad Horse, Portland Stage Company, and many more.
  •   TAKING CENTER STAGE  |  September 03, 2014
    “I’ve always loved hidden treasures,” says Michael Levine, founding artistic director of Acorn Productions, as he climbs the stairs to the third-floor ballroom of Mechanics Hall, a gem of a historic space concealed in plain sight right on Congress Street.
  •   BARN FULL OF WONDER  |  August 31, 2014
    Although summer is winding down, there’s still time for this summery, feel-good theatrical throwback to simpler times.
  •   BEREAVE IT OR NOT  |  August 22, 2014
    A dramedy about death, lust, and love by Portland actress and playwright Megan E. Tripaldi.

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING