Review by Danny Gaisin
What kind of a production could possibly attract Susan Anton; Corbin Bleu; John Stamos & Drew Carey to perform at the Hollywood Bowl? Not a fundraiser or telethon, but rather a 2011 performance of “HAIRSPRAY”. Version -The Shaiman & Whittman musical adaptation of John Waters’ 1988 movie film.
The story deals with a young Baltimore teenager in the 60’s; oversized but determined to be on a local TV dance program run by Buddy Deane…oops ‘Corny Collins’. She passes the audition; is a hit; becomes a local celeb, and ultimately integrates the show. Like the plot, this is an energetic, funny, feel-good performance with enough crinolines, teased ‘do’s; tacky commercial slogans and hummable songs to please even the most jaded of us old farts.
Hammer Entertainment and its director Jason Dick have raided the local public, middle and High Schools for the most adorable bunch of young performers imaginable. Their talent, indefatigable energy, and total involvement in each individual’s performance make this show more than worthwhile. The starring role of Tracy is portrayed by Carly Anna Billings and she’s on-stage for almost every scene. The face expresses each emotion, the voice belts out a message and her dancing imparts the rationale for the whole plot. Her love interest is Greg Solomon who started out a little hesitantly but by Act II had fleshed out the dimensions of his character. He will be a worthy candidate for Sheridan to start molding this fall.
One of the parental (read mature) roles is acted & sung by Tracy Cain and she’s a powerhouse. Her rendering of the much-debated ‘I know where I’ve been’ number packs a serious punch. This rendition goes right into the face of controversy. There’s some inspired dance numbers performed by Rodney Diverlus that is faultless and totally professional-grade. His own interracial association with Tracy’s BFF – Penny, is both credible and feasible; based in no small part by Laurel Seagren’s dorkiness not going overboard into the realm of ‘ham’.
The mother/daughter duo of Stacy Milford& Tammy Whetham is a little too overdone and overacted. Granted they are the villains of the piece, but even show-biz brats & their moms have a little humanity still inherent. The ‘Corny Collins’ MC role is played to the extreme by Phil Pompeo; in spite of his energy, I kept focusing on how much he resembles a young Anthony Perkins. Tracy’s parents are the milquetoast Wilbur (Roberto Lombardi) and generously proportioned Loren Lieberman in drag. They are a study in opposites & role reversals who earn guffaws with every utterance.
As critics, we tend to watch the whole show rather than focusing on the centres of action. This lets us observe many of the support cast or even crew efforts and these certainly contribute to the success of any presentation. This enabled us to notice the full-measure participation by Jill Kooymans. Her smiling façade; dancing & bit lines are all delivered un-reined. She is a trouper.
The costumes are creative and temporally representative; the octet were a little overpowering during the first few songs, but decibel-ed down for the remainder of the play. Set is simplistic but effective; the choreography satisfactory if not terribly unique (except for Diverlus’ solos).
We; just like the performers on-stage relish acknowledgment of a well-presented solo or chorus number. But whoever felt the need to constantly shriek above the A-5 soprano range left me semi-deaf for hours. Thanks, lady!