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You can't stop the beat at Toby's


"Hairspray" at Toby's through August 1st.  Photo Credit: Kirstine Christiansen

Hey, Hon, leave those dirty dishes in the "zinc," "worsh" your face with some "wooter," and drive on over to Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia to see their beehive hair-raising live musical production of "Hairspray!"

Adapted from the 1988 John Waters film, "Hairspray" revolves around a “pleasantly plump” teenager named Tracy Turnblad who dreams of becoming famous and fights to racially integrate The Corny Collins Show in 1962 Baltimore.

It's a beautiful day as Tracy wakes up, walks to school as she sings "Good Morning Baltimore."  She isn't judgmental of her neighbors, including the town drunk, flasher, and even the rats on the street.  Tracy loves life and loves Baltimore!  Celia Blitzer as Tracy is a delight as she portrays this big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart. 

While Tracy is in school, her mother Edna Turnblad is busy running a laundry business out of their home.  Lawrence B. Munsey continues the tradition of this role being played by a man.  With a female body suit and costumes by Mr. Munsey himself, he tastefully and gracefully plays this comedic role, most recently seen on film portrayed by John Travolta.

Mr. Munsey has been performing at Toby's for years.  Most recently he was Bob in the area premier of White Christmas.  Lawrence is one of those actors that I can always feel relaxed while watching because I can always count on him to give a good performance.  He truly takes to heart Toby's saying, "you are only as good as your last performance." 

One actor I have seen get even better through the years is another Toby's regular, Heather Marie Beck.  As the producer of The Corny Collins Show, Velma Von Tussle pushes her daughter, Amber to seek the stardom that she never had.  In "Miss Baltimore Crabs," Velma is auditioning new dancers for the show while bragging how she so cunningly clinched the title of Miss Baltimore Crab.  Skipping school to attend the dance auditions, Tracy was quickly harassed by Velma for being "too short and stout."

Ms. Beck has proven that she can portray a wide range of roles.  Seeing the comparison between her character as Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors" and Velma in "Hairspray" makes it clear that she is more than just a pretty face and voice.

Overall, while the performances in "Hairspray" were generally enjoyable, the actors lacked continuity in regards to the level of campiness put into each role.  To compare, Jesaira Glover as Motormouth Maybelle was a 2 out of 10 on the level of campiness, while MaryLee Adams as Penny Pingleton was a 10 out of 10.  This may cause confusion for the audience that may accidentally judge an actor as either under-acting or over-acting their character.

Not since "Footloose" has Toby's had a show with so much dancing!  As choreographer, Mark Minnick used the theatre-in-the-round setting well, making sure that no audience member felt ignored.  Looking at the faces of the actors, one could tell that they enjoyed dancing Mr. Minnick's choreography just as much as the audience did watching. 

Part of the story is how Tracy Turnblad (Celia Blitzer) wins a spot on the local TV program by dancing new moves taught to her by a black dancer named Seaweed while she was in detention.  Her character would have been more believable if Ms. Blitzer's execution of the dance moves had more soul.  Luckily her upbeat, perky personality is enough to make her as sweet as a Berger cookie.

The hummable tunes by Marc Shaiman will leave you singing "You Can't Stop the Beat" for at least three weeks after watching this show!  Other memorable songs like "I Can Hear the Bells," "Welcome to the 60's," "I Know Where I've Been, " and "You're Timeless to Me"  come-to-life with the live 6 piece orchestra lead by the talented Brant Challacombe.

"Hairspray" runs through August 1st at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia.


Ticket Information:  Call 1-866-99TOBYS or visit

Production Credits:  Based upon the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, Produced by Toby's Dinner Theatre, Directed by Toby Orenstein, Musical Direction by Brant Challacombe, Set Design by David A. Hopkins, Choreography by Mark Minnick, Costume Design by Lawrence B. Munsey, Lighting Design by Lynn Joslin, and Sound Design by Drew Dedrick.

Cast:  Celia Blitzer, Jeffrey Shankle, Lawrence B. Munsey, MaryLee Adams, Heather Marie Beck, Jamie Eacker, David Jennings, Frank Anthony, Melissa Victor, Jesaira Glover, David James, Debra Buonaccorsi, Shawn Kettering.

Menu:  Penny's Peppered Burgundy Mushrooms, Corny's Citrus Glazed Carrots, Roasted Ratatouille, Spinach Phunque, Prudy's Pasta Marinara, Chicken Chesapeake, Baltimore Beer Braised Knockwurst, Rice Pilaf, Turnblad's Baked Tilapia, Steamship Round, Roast Turkey Breast, Baked Virginia Pit Ham, Steamed Spiced Shrimp, Salad Bar, Sundae Bar, Show Drink:  Cootie.

Performing Arts Reporter
Baltimore Examiner


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