By Josephine Norris, Photo Editor.
The hit Broadway musical “Hairspray” kicked off Pit and Balcony’s 84th season. Under the direction of Tommy Wedge, this is a larger than life musical has been dazzling and inspiring audience members to dance right out of their seats since it opened on the Great White Way in 2002. With music and lyrics by the award winning pair, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman, “Hairspray” is a joyful and talented performance not to be missed.
The musical opens in 1962 with Tracy Turnblad (Jenny Cohen), a teen with a big heart and even bigger dreams, dancing her way through the streets of Baltimore. Her dancing talent lands her a spot on the Corny Collins Show, the local teen dance show. However, despite reaching her goal of dancing on live TV, Tracy doesn’t understand why her black peers can’t dance on the segregated Corny Collins Show with her. Tracy sets out on a mission with her family and friends to show the world that “you can’t stop the beat” of an increasingly diverse future.
I have to say the casting of this show is perfect. Wedge did an excellent job in finding the many talented individuals to make up the cast that I saw singing and dancing their hearts out. This is the largest cast Pit and Balcony has had to date, numbering around 34, but never once did the stage feel crowded. The young cast members (several are still in high school and college) brought a definite energy to the show that is perfect for this piece. There were a few stiff moments by various cast members, but overall, the collective energy of the cast made up for those moments.
I was very impressed with Cohen’s portrayal of Tracy. She definitely brought spunk and sparkling energy to her character. Another notable performance was that of Chad William Baker as Edna Turnblad. The character of Edna – played by a man in drag – can easily become just a caricature and somewhat of a joke but Baker did an excellent job with both his delivery and a genuineness to his character. Donte` Ashton Green played Seaweed and is one talented singer, but my goodness, his dancing! What a joy to watch!
The vocal talent of the cast was another major highlight of the performance. I was blown away by the pipes of this cast. Several times, such as during the moving “I Know Where I’ve Been,” I found myself covered in goose bumps. Vocal Director Sara Taylor has done a wonderful job leading the cast and found myself singing along to the music several times.
Every musical calls for great choreography and Candy Kotze and Tommy Wedge’s work helped to make the most of the tiny stage. The energy over all, not just in the dance numbers, was just infectious. As the cast danced, their feet thundered onstage to the beat of the music, matching my own feet tapping along in my seat. I longed to be onstage dancing alongside the cast to the uber catchy songs.
The set designed by Gary Reid and Tommy Wedge for the show was comprised of different multi-sided blocks that spun to reveal beautifully painted scenes by Mary Whalen Swift. The movement of these set pieces was smoothly choreographed by Wedge and the hard work paid off. I hardly noticed the set’s movements and the transitions were very smooth.
Performances are Oct. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available online at pitandbalconytheatre.com or via phone at 989-754-6587.
From Delta Collegiate