June 24, 2002
Upbeat 'Hairspray' heads to Broadway
by Deborah Stone
Arts and Entertainment
The 5th Avenue Theatre opened its 2002-2003 season with the world premiere of "Hairspray," a new musical comedy based upon the 1988 New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters. Directed by Jack O'Brien and starring Harvey Fierstein as the irresistible stage mother Edna Turnblad, with Marissa Jaret Winokur as her daughter Tracy Turnblad, "Hairspray" is an exhilarating, high gloss production that is ready to make its mark on Broadway, come this August.
The show stays basically faithful to Waters' quirky film, but adds the element of a splendid score, filled with infectious songs that make one want to take to the streets and dance the night away. Set in Baltimore in 1962, the story involves teenager Tracy Turnblad, a chubby girl with big hair and lots of heart, whose main passion in life is to dance. She wins a spot on "The Corny Collins Show," the local TV dance program, and suddenly goes from misfit outsider to teen celebrity and heroine. Tracy eventually manages to racially integrate the show, with the help of her cohorts, while championing funky dancing and R&B music, vanquish the program's reigning princess, Amber Von Tussle (Laura Bell Bundy) and capture the heart of Link Larkin (Matthew Morrison), the cutest guy around. Winokur, as Tracy, is a breath of fresh air, with her contagious smile and natural exuberance. She belts out each of her numbers with heart and soul, has all the right moves and is a portrait of optimism against all odds. The audience roots for her from the start, knowing that she will succeed in her efforts to change, not herself, but the world in which she lives.
Fierstein, in drag, as Tracy's mother is a hoot, but his classy and endearing portrayal of an obese woman who will go to the moon and back to support her daughter is what makes this talented actor perfect for the role.
Other stand-outs in the cast include Corey Reynolds, as Tracy's new dancin' pal Seaweed (this guy can really tear up the stage!), Dick Latessa as Tracy's eccentric and sweet father, Mary Bond Davis as black deejay Motormouth Maybelle and Linda Hart as Velma Von Tussle, the villainous and bigoted producer of the Corny Collins TV show.
In addition to a great score (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), which features Latin-pop, gospel hymns, Motown, love ballads and 60s bubblegum pop, the show features terrific choreography with many of the 60's dance crazes, such as "The Madison," being performed by an ensemble that really struts their stuff. Snazzy sets and a fantastic array of costumes and bouffant wigs complete this terrifically entertaining production that is sure to be a hit on Broadway.
Up next at the 5th Ave will be "Blast," a unique explosion of music and theatre, opening Oct. 8th. For more information, call (206) 292-ARTS or access the theatre's web site at www.5thavenuetheatre.org