Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Broadway in Tucson Review: Hairspray'

"Hairspray" first dazzled audiences as a 1988 John Waters movie, then captured Broadway hearts as a musical in 2002. That show was so successful that it inspired an encore film adaptation in 2007. The Broadway show's national tour is an endless victory lap for the phenomenon.

Bursting with catchy tunes, body-positive and civil rights messaging, "Hairspray" is as much an irresistible force of nature as its lead character, Tracy Turnblad. Played with vigor and determination by Caroline Eisman, Tracy longs to be included on the TV dance show, which nearly always consists of only thin, white performers. 

Determined not to let her plus-size body be the factor that holds her back, she turns heads at auditions and achieves her dream. But she doesn't stop there, using her newfound momentum to rally for racial equality, she makes new friends and enemies in the process. The throughline is that Tracy knows she will prevail because she's on the side of progress. As the show's tagline declares, you can't stop the beat.

From the show-launching "Good Morning Baltimore" to the dazzling duet "(You're) Timeless to Me" and the watershed "I Know Where I've Been," "Hairspray" is a nonstop succession of catchy ballads that infuse the audience with good cheer. 

The capable supporting cast, with Andrew Scoggin as showman Corny Collins, Caroline Portner as snotty Amber Von Tussle and Micah Sauvageau and Greg Kalafatas as Tracy's parents, "Hairspray" comes to life with gorgeous scenery, precision choreography and hummable music that coalesces into a boisterous extravaganza. I adored the timely additions to the script, which included a swipe at the Donald Trump regime and a crowd-wowing references to the Old Pueblo and University of Arizona.

"Hairspray" is a show for dreamers, early 1960s nostalgia and vestiges that still remain of the bygone oppressive era. Society has come a long way since the days in which "Hairspray" was set, but still has miles to go. It will take the Tracy Turnblads of the world to get us there.

"Hairspray" plays through April 28 at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here.

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