Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stuck On Hairspray

Stuck On Hairspray

It should be duly noted that occasionally, I do see a movie or two.

A week ago Friday, the second silver screen incarnation of “Hairspray” opened to favorable reviews and a wide audience, earning what was the best opening weekend of any movie musical ever. Having adored the original 1988 film, as well as having immensely enjoyed the 2002 Broadway stage musical adaptation, I was sure to make a beehive, er, bee line to see the flick the day it was released.

While I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Harvey Fierstein was not invited to reprise his Tony-winning take as Edna Turnblad, I went in with an open mind, deciding to give John Travolta and the movie a chance.

And guess what? Thanks to his deft delivery of an adorable Edna by breaking new ground with his larger than life characterization, I actually forgot that I was watching the very same actor who was on fire as Danny Zuko nearly thirty years ago.

But he's not even the show's best asset. You simply can’t help but fall in love with Nikki Blonsky (as Tracy Turnblad), the young actress who traded in her ice cream scooper for a giant lick in the big time. It’s been years since I’ve witnessed an unknown display such amazing grace and confidence her first time out.

Other standouts include Zac Efron (Link), Amanda Bynes (Penny) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Velma Von Tussle). I’d be remiss not to mention both James Marsden or Elijah Kelley (Seaweed). Marsden provided a cheeky, yet luminescent presence as Corny Collins -- here’s hoping we’ll see him trade the big screen for a big stage musical with that big smile. And if there's any justice, it would be downright sweet to see Kelley replicate some of his moves by treading the boards, too.

The zippy pacing and exhilarating choreography by director Adam Shankman made the film whiz by, although not too fast as to miss the show’s enormous heart, which was created in large part by the score from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Still -- and this will be the theatre snob coming out in me -- as much as they cranked the volume up on all the major numbers, including the dizzying finale, I couldn’t help but recall how much more frenzied with delight the live show made its audience.

Although I missed many of the original tuner’s musical numbers stricken to help move the film along, I was certainly placated by the renditions offered with the credits – not the least of which was the gloriously inspired trio of Rikki Lake, Marissa Jaret Winokur and Nikki Blonsky singing “Mama I’m A Big Girl Now.”

Just for the record, I personally believe the best “Hairspray” of all remains the original John Waters effort. But here’s hoping that this very enjoyable remake will inspire countless fans to make Broadway’s Neil Simon or London’s Shaftesbury Theatres a destination to see the slightly superior stage version. And it must be having an enormous impact as the Great White Way production is playing to standing room only houses for the third week in a row (quite a noteworthy rebound from its steep decline last fall).

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Hairspray Broadway tickets.
Click here for Hairspray London tickets.
Related Stories:
Go East, Young Musical, Go East (July 26, 2007)
Touring Hairspray Caught In Sticky Net (April 26, 2007)
Hairspray To Brush With West End Style (March 9, 2007)
Fall At Broadway's Box Office (September 12, 2006)

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4 Comments:

At 31 July, 2007, Blogger Apollo! said...

I believe the original movie comes on ABC Family tonight. I'm gonna watch. It's been a few years since I've seen it.

 
At 31 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Apollo,

Right you are! The original 1988 film will be shown twice this evening: first at 7 p.m. (6 CDT)) and again at 9 (8 CDT).

I just re-watched the film again about a month ago and forgot how much fun it is. Rikki Lake was adorable...but Debbie Harry...WOW!

Enjoy!

 
At 01 August, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

I watched the movie again a couple of months ago, after seeing the musical for the first time, on tour. While I also like all three, I'd have to say that the stage musical is my favorite. I loved the movie, but there's just nothing as thrilling as seeing the songs performed live. You simply don't get the same sense of energy, the same adrenaline rush.

I like the original movie, but I just think that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's songs add so much to the story, really kicking it up a notch in terms of meaning.

The tunes are so catchy and the lyrics are funny at times, and stirring. They really bring home that sense of optimism from the early '60s, the sense that America was becoming a better place, a more inclusive place, not just for African-Americans, but for all people. "I Know Where I've Been" is such a great civil-rights anthem. It sounds like it could have been written in 1962.

Having heard Harvey's gravelly voice on the cast CD, I would love to have seen him in the film. But I loved John Travolta and Christopher Walken in "You're Timeless to Me," especially the costume changes!

 
At 01 August, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther - Thanks for weighing in! I guess I'm drawn to the slightly subversive nature of Waters' original that is slightly less commercial, but I agree wholeheartedly with you about the adreneline rush of the live show.

Trust me, I enjoyed all three incarnations and am now looking forward to the inevitable non-musical stage version....

 

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