Forget wind power.
With dance moves reminiscent of those seen on “American Bandstand” in the ’60s, plus a whole lot of additional twists and turns, the show is a delight from start to finish. Directed by ABT resident choreographer Kurtis W. Overby, and choreographed by both Overby and Shelley Jenkins, “Hairspray” is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name and has music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.
Filled with singing, dancing and humor, “Hairspray” is naturally upbeat, but it does contain a couple of underlying themes of a serious note. Looking back from today’s perspective, audiences may not fully grasp how revolutionary Tracy’s vision of simply wanting all the whites and blacks to dance together on local TV in 1962 Baltimore was, or how much courage it would have taken to bring it about.
Another underlying theme is revealed when Tracy’s mother tells her, “They don’t put people like us on television except to be laughed at,” meaning those who are less than pencil thin. Tracy triumphs by winning her place on TV, securing the Miss Teenage Hairspray crown, and getting the guy. Her victory is an encouragement to women everywhere who don’t fit Hollywood’s unrealistic ideal.
Every member of the cast gave an outstanding performance Friday. Here is some additional information about some of the principal players.
Victoria Lynn Socci plays Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and big heart in 1962 Baltimore. She sets the stage with “Good Morning, Baltimore,” and from there, the audience can’t help but root for her to fulfill her dreams, no matter how farfetched they may seem at first. Socci’s credits include appearing as Paulette in “Legally Blonde” and Wendy Jo in “Footloose,” among others. She has a Bachelor of Arts in theater and music from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.
Ryan Michael Crimmins takes the stage as Corny Collins, host of his own Baltimore teenage dance show. Familiar to ABT audiences as Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Crimmins also appeared in the first U.S. production of “The Journey West,” a new musical headed to the Lincoln Center. In addition, he has played such roles as Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors,” Jamie in “The Last Five Years and Willard in “Footloose.”
Sal Pavia makes his ABT debut as Link Larkin, teenage heartthrob on “The Corny Collins Show.” The native New Yorker holds a bachelor of arts in theater performance and speech from Wagner College, located on Staten Island. His credits include Emmett Forest in “Legally Blonde,” Chip in “Spelling Bee” and Ben McCormack in “Footloose.”
Also making his ABT debut is Richard Koons-Wagoner as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother. His many credits include Archibald Craven in “The Secret Garden,” Old Deuteronomy in “Cats,” Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” and Padre in “Man of La Mancha.” He holds degrees from Ball State University in Indiana and from the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music.
Wade Moran joins the cast as Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s father and encourager of her dreams. Since moving to the Phoenix area, he has appeared in numerous local roles, such as Felix in “The Odd Couple,” Charlie in “The Foreigner” and Albert in “Dear Ruth.”
Playing Tracy’s friend Penny Singleton is Trisha Hart Ditsworth. Ditsworth has worked out of both New York and Chicago, but now calls the Phoenix area her home. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater from the University of Arizona. Other credits include Pickles in “Trailer Park,” Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” and Gertrude in “Seussical.”
Vanessa Dunleavy plays Velma Von Tussle, the racist producer of “The Corny Collins Show.” A graduate of Manhattan’s Circle in the Square, Dunleavy recently came off the first national Broadway tour of “Catch Me If You Can.” She is currently co-writing a one-woman show entitled “My Post-Traumatic Caribbean Christmas Cabaret.”
Making her debut at ABT is Emmeline Wood as Amber Von Tussle, Velma Von Tussle’s daughter and Tracy’s rival for both the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray and the affections of teenage TV celebrity Link Larkin. A native of Kansas and a graduate of Florida State University, Wood’s credits include “The Music Man,” “Grease” and “A Chorus Line,” among others. This is her third production of “Hairspray.”
Deidra Grace portrays Motormouth Maybelle, host of Negro Day on “The Corny Collins Show.” A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Grace’s credits include Sofia in “The Color Purple,” Trix in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and Mama Morton in “Chicago.”
Playing Motormouth’s son, Seaweed J. Stubbs, is Antonio Tillman. Tillman recently finished a 9-month contract with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines playing the same part. Other credits include Angel in “RENT,” Donkey in “Shrek” and the Scarecrow in “The Wiz.”
Brittney Mack comes back to ABT as Little Inez after performing as a headliner for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Little Inez is the daughter of Motormouth Maybelle and Seaweed’s little sister. Among Mack’s other credits are Charlaine in “Ain’t Misbehavin’, Dorothy in the “Wiz” and Liza in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
For the complete cast list, click here.
In addition to a terrific show, audiences enjoy a dinner served by an attentive wait staff. The menu features plenty of selections, many of which are included in the price of a ticket, and there are more choices offered at an additional cost.
Added bonuses: During intermission, music from the era plays continuously, from “Johnny Angel” to “Twist and Shout” to “Surfin’ Safari” and more. This performance was followed by a free cabaret. Note: Cabarets take place only on certain Fridays (usually two Fridays per show), and there are sometimes other free lobby performance events after shows. Check ABT's Facebook or Twitter sites for updates.
The only drawback to attending a “Hairspray” performance at ABT? Sitting down front could mean getting sprayed with real live hairspray. A minor inconvenience hardly worth considering.
Arizona Broadway Theatre is located at 7701 W. Paradise Lane in Peoria, Ariz. Tickets for “Hairspray,” which runs through Sunday, Nov. 10, may be ordered online or by calling the box office at (623) 776-8400.
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