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"Hairspray" show #863

The current touring production of Hairspray packs a mighty punch of energy and talent, led by a dynamite Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad, the girl who just wants to dance. Metcalf’s dancing chops and singing talent are utilized superbly in Robbie Roy’s choreography and the Tony-winning score. Surrounded by a supporting cast who nails the comedy and lesson-based storytelling when it comes to race relations between communities, this Hairspray is a show you won’t wanna miss.

Andrew Levitt’s turn as Turnblad matriarch, Edna, showcases Levitt’s ability to fill in beats of comedic takes while simultaneously delivering the expected motherly chemistry opposite Metcalf’s impassioned focus to dance on and desegregate the Corny Collins Show. Levitt’s vocals ring well in “Welcome to the ‘60’s” and opposite an equally funny Ralph Prentice Daniel as Wilbur in “(You’re) Timeless to Me.” Metcalf teams up well with a hilarious Emery Henderson as Tracy’s bestie, Penny, and Ryahn Evers’ malicious Amber to lead a fantastically sung and acted “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now.” Evers makes the oft-throw away “Cooties” tune a welcome insult-ridden turn late in Act Two. Charlie Bryant III steals the show as triple-threat extraordinaire in his turn as Seaweed, leading “Run and Tell That” with enthusiasm and top-tier dancing.

Bill Dawson is a dashing Corny Collins, exuding television host charm while infusing crooner-esque timbre into “The Nicest Kids in Town” and “Hairspray.” Nick Cortazzo provides a youthful earnestness to his Link Larkin, and his buttery vocals are smooth in “It Takes Two,” backed up by a stellar quartet from the male Council kids. Addison Garner is a devilishly great villain as Velma Von Tussle, whose sole purpose is to overthrow the Tracy fandom and propel her daughter to the Miss Teenage Hairspray crown. Sandie Lee stops the show with unmatched vocal prowess and emotionally-driven gravitas in her deliveries of “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful,” and especially in her Act Two leading of “I Know Where I’ve Been.” And while the remaining supporting matriarch, Emmanuelle Zeesman (Prudy Pingleton/Gym Teacher/Matron) does well vocally, she does take extreme advantage of the inappropriate ad-libs allotted her, often detracting from the integrity of the show and giving hiccups to the pacing for the sake of a couple more laughs.

While David Rockwell’s touring set design goes a bit extreme in its bus-and-truck practicality and minimalism, the randomly used video dancers projected in “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Without Love,” both songs not needing to be filled out with more visual, is too much; Metcalf is more than capable of kicking off the show in the opening number, and the use of projected digital dancers makes it appear that director Matt Lenz doesn’t trust her or the quartet of Metcalf, Cortazzo, Henderson, and Bryant III in “Without Love” to engage the audience, and yet, they do. Paul Miller’s tour lighting is exceptional by driving the mood and focus extremely well, and William Ivey Long’s costume design is kept true to period and visual delight, especially with the dresses Metcalf and Levitt don in the outstandingly designed and staged “Welcome to the ‘60’s.”

Hairspray is always a wow, and this being the 8th different production I’ve witnessed, I must say that this tour is providing some of the best performances I have ever seen. Don’t miss it if it comes to a city near you!

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