Hairspray is well known for its upbeat music, fun songs and dances, and most definitely, big hair.
But the CenterStage production, which opened July 19, kicking off the company’s 2018-19 season, delivers on so much more. This musical is the story of a girl who wouldn’t accept the world as it was and … did something about it.
Miriam Housewright is lovely as Tracey Turnblad, the big-hearted, plus-size teenager who wants to dance on the “Corny Collins Show.” She starts things off with a well-sung “Good Morning Baltimore” as she works her way to school through the streets of her hometown.
But her own dreams will soon collide with the struggle for equality for all.
Housewright brings her own spunky flare to the stage that comes with playing Tracy, and she does it in a way that separates her from Nikki Blonsky, who played the role in the 2007 Blockbuster rendition.
Landon Sholar embodies everything you think Link Larkin should be. He’s the “cool” kid with the perfect hair, the stellar talent, and open mind. His portrayal of the character was spot on and thoroughly enjoyable.
Shane Whitehead and Sam Mannino shine as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s parents. While they held their own in their individual roles, they captured the audience’s heart when they came together for their duet, “You’re Timeless to Me.”
Bridgette Thomas and Shelby Brown make the perfect evil duo as Velma and Amber Von Tussle, who will do just about anything to capture the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray and take down Tracy. In sharp contrast to the Von Tussles, Erin Jump and Tony Harris come together as Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s quirky best friend, and Seaweed Stubbs, Tracy’s swuave detention mate. Together they form the dynamic duo, helping Tracy reach her goal and fight for equality.
Andrea Diggs stuns as Motormouth Maybelle. She brings a strong presence to not only the stage, but the narrative as well with her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been”—the show-stopping anthem to inclusion. Each note she belted out had the audience cheering along.
Directed by Frank Goodloe III and choreographed by Maggie Patten, the production pops with scenic designer Nick Potter’s set. Lighting Designer Nick Dent and Sound Designer Aaron Thompson’s work helps to move the show along by placing emphasis on various moments of and ensuring an enjoyable experience.
Set in the 1960s, in the heat of the civil rights movement, Hairspray still holds relevance in today’s society. Intertwined through all the fun, the timely message towers higher than the hairdos in the production – equality for all.
That is exactly the message Director Goodloe wanted to portray. His hope is for each person in the audience to take a little bit of Tracy with them as they exit the theater. And why not? The world could use more Tracy Turnblads – people who truly see people as individuals and want a better world.
Want to go?
Hairspray opened Thursday, July 19 and runs through Sunday, August 5. You can purchase your tickets by calling the Jewish Community Center at 502-459-0660.
If you’re coming to the final performance on August 5, be sure to stick around afterwards for a special CenterStage program, “Setting the Stage for Equality,” a panel discussion exploring the ways to build an equal Louisville for everyone. Performance Director Frank Goodloe will be joined by members of Louisville Urban League, Jewish Council of Public Affairs, The Bail Project and Showing Up for Racial Justice. The event is free, and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided. Panel attendees can receive a $4 discount on their August 5 Hairspray tickets with code PANEL4.