Hairspray: Super-Size Performances

By Carla Waldemar September 8, 2011

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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It’s 1962, it’s Baltimore, it’s Hairspray, the delicious musical based on the quirky (of course) film only John Waters could pull off. The Tony-winning Broadway hit, which ended a six-year run in 2009, is now off and running at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

And is it ever! From the opening lilt of “Good Morning Baltimore” to the final note of “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” the main stage takes on new life—and a lot of vibrant, new company members—with its über-energetic, blissfully positive spin on that rockin’ era. While Freedom Riders worked to integrate the South, tubby teen Tracy Turnblad—with rose-colored hairbow standing in for optimistically-tinted lenses—integrates her town’s popular TV teen dance show, just as the storyline itself integrates fairyland by featuring a fat, unpopular kid as diva.

In a smashing Chan debut, plus-size Therese Walth steals the spotlight (no easy task with this top cast) and our hearts with the downright sweetness—call it innocence—that fuels her potent vocal cords and hyper-energetic dance moves.

She’s abetted by her–um—peculiar parents, calling on venerable, and usually type-cast regular David Anthony Brinkley to un-square his shoulders as Edna (looking lovely indeed in a pink housecoat and scuffs). Jay Albright, terminally timid as customary, is a fine fit as Wilbur, her loving spouse. Both prove they can bop right along with the kids.

Speaking of kids—a couple of Jesus Christ Superstar stars have found a new religion in rock ’n’ roll—primarily Ben Bakken, shedding the Jesus persona for his role as just-as-hunky love interest Link Larkin. Michael Gruber likewise clicks as slick TV show host Corny Collins.

Chan’s dance line is as strong, vibrant and winning as we’ve come to count on, joyously engulfing us in nonstop numbers wittily articulated by resident choreographer Tamara Kangas Erickson. She’s backed by the delectable, right on the money Sixties costumes of Nayna Ramey’s creation and the mega-wigs of Susan Magnuson, half as tall as the IDS. Director Michael Brindisi presides with a warm, embracing attitude that knits the show together and underscores its timelessness. P.S. As new co-owner of the organization, he’s upgraded the dinner part of the dinner theater, thank goodness. As he insists, “The show starts at 6, not 8.” The production runs through January.

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