Thursday, July 05, 2018

Not just big hair – “Hairspray’s” little moments also please

Nick DeSantis, Shaunyce Omar and Callie Williams in Hairspray (Tracy Martin)
Village Theatre
Everett: 7/6-29/18

There is plenty to enjoy in the Village Theatre production of Hairspray, and a lot of it is in tiny moments that make it clear that directors Steve Tomkins and Timothy McCuen Piggee have thought about every detail. It’s also a bit bittersweet for those who have enjoyed Tomkins’ directing at Village, because this is his last official production as artistic director at the theater.

This production has heightened the revolutionary part of the story of a young woman who puts her dreams on the line in order to desegregate her local television dance program. It’s a particularly good message for these turbulent times.

The musical was also fairly revolutionary in its debut by focusing on a larger-size girl and her larger-size mother. For whatever reason, it then became obligatory, though, to cast the mother as a man because Harvey Fierstein played it that way on Broadway. Though our veteran comedy actor, Nick DeSantis does a perfectly wonderful job, it might be more revolutionary these days to actually cast a large woman in the role.

New-to-town Callie Williams is Tracy Turnblad. She and her best friend Penny (Becca Orts) watch the Corny Collins show religiously and decide they must attend a teen dancer audition when there’s an opening. It’s no surprise that Tracy is deemed too large and unattractive for the show, but somehow, she gets on anyway, and somehow, she ends up attracting the attention of the popular boy on tv, Link Larkin (Ethan Carpenter).  

But Tracy’s also been in a bit of trouble over the height of her hair and meets a lot of other “troubled” kids in school detention, who somehow all seem to be black. Seaweed is one of those detention kids. The understudy, Chandler T., went on as Seaweed in the show I saw and he completely nailed the role. He has the voice and the moves and no one could have known that he wasn’t originally cast so from the beginning.

Seaweed’s mom is Motormouth Maybelle, powerfully sung by Shaunyce Omar, who sent everyone out to intermission with the show-stopping Big, Blonde & Beautiful and her big alto voice! Maybelle also is allowed to be on the television show for Negro Day, once a month. But Tracy would like there to be Negro Day every day and starts agitating for change.

Some of the fun tiny moments in this production include the particularly slapstick activities of Williams where she shows off her comic timing and her willingness to look silly while mooning over Link, and the similar silliness of Carpenter when he turns into a “mannequin” and is dragged all over the stage. Some of that is just laugh-out-loud funny!

The choreography by Crystal Dawn Munkers is also apt for the different styles of the period and encourages a lot of smiling at the stage. The rest of the tech support, including sharp music direction from R.J. Tancioco, a clean set by Carey Wong (his trademark), and terrific dresses from Alex Jaeger pull the whole show together.

The show is one for all ages to enjoy and the little kids I saw, as tiny as 3 or 4, prove that! Everyone is having a great time.

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