Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hairspray (The SOB Revisit)

Hairspray (The SOB Revisit) - Neil Simon Theatre, New York, New York

***1/2 (out of ****)

The last time I saw the 2003 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Hairspray with Harvey Fierstein, it was during its pre-Broadway tryout in Seattle.

When I learned that the Tony-winning actor would return to the role of Edna Turnblad before the show ended its six and a half year Rialto run, I immediately rushed to purchase tickets to see him one more time. Am I ever glad I did.

Just days before his Tony-winning co-star Marissa Jaret Winokur returned to reprise her turn as Tracy Turnblad, I revisited Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's buoyant tuner. After having seen the more recent film version, it's easy to forget that Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan provided a slyly funny and slightly subversive book to tell the story of the coming of age, both for a wide-eyed innocent high school girl and the civil rights movement in Baltimore. Hands-down, the stage version of Hairspray is eminently better than the watered-down (and I don't mean John Waters) movie. And as wonderful as the dancing was in the film, you simply can't stop the beat of Jerry Mitchell's effervescent choreography live on stage.

While I have no doubt that current audiences are now eating up every moment that the original musical's Tracy and Edna are offering (and that includes Fierstein's extraordinarily funny, ribald ad-libbing), Marissa Perry as Tracy was exceptional. Current castmembers Constantine Rousouli and Tevin Campbell also rise to the dizzying heights of the material with the former providing a pitch-perfect, swoon-inducing Link Larkin, while the latter as Seaweed J. Stubbs is nothing short of a revelation.

Hairspray may soon be closing, but with one dream about to be realized just a couple weeks later via Barack Obama's inauguration, it's Charlotte Crossley's stirring, heartfelt rendition of "I Know Where I've Been" that proves an even more moving, more poignant tribute to those who have been lost along the way than Messrs. Shaiman and Wittman could have possibly anticipated.

Like that soulful tune, Hairspray still has the capacity to lift us up until tomorrow.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 30 December, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Hey Steve,
I totally agree and I'm glad you had such a great time. I've been in love with "Hairspray" since I saw it on tour in 2007. I love Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's score. And seeing it on Broadway, with Harvey, a week after the election, was an electrifying, stirring experience. As much as I love seeing shows for the first time, there was something so thrilling abut anticipating every scene, every song, every line. Harvey was just hilarious, the rest of the cast was excellent and Jerry Mitchell's energetic choreography was even more awesome than I remembered. It was definitely one of my most exciting theatre experiences of the year.


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