Sorry! I used to have a copy of the Hairspray logo here, but too many people have been linking to this image, which inappropriately drives up my traffic. In the future, if you want to use an image from this site, please COPY it--don't link to it!
"Ma, I gotta tell you that Without a doubt I get my best dancing lessons from you You're the one who taught me How to 'Twist and Shout' Because you shout nonstop And you're so twisted too!"
- Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
- Music by Marc Shaiman
- Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
- Directed by Jack O'Brien
- Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler
- CD produced by Marc Shaiman
- Opened 8/15/02 at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York. Still running.
Marissa Jaret Winokur
Laura Bell Bundy
Amber Von Tussle
Mary Bond Davis
Motormouth Maybelle Dick Latessa Wilbur Turnblad
Velma Von Tussle
Seaweed J. Stubbs
Danelle Eugenia Wilson
Peter Matthew Smith
- Adam Fleming
Todd Michel Smith
Prudie Pingleton, Gym Teacher, Matron
Harriman F. Spritzer, Mr. Pinky, Principal, Guard
Danielle Lee Greaves
- Shayna Steele
- Kamilah Martin
- Judine Richard
This musical is based on the cult movie of the same name.
Tracy Turnblad is a "large" (aka fat) teenager with a high hairdo and dreams of being a professional dancer, or at least a dancer on the Corny Collins TV show (which has a "Negro Day" once a month but is otherwise segregated). She and her friend Penny watch the show every day and drool over Link Larkin, "the show's resident dreamboat." The show will be hosting the Miss Ultra Clutch Hairspray contest; the award will go to the most popular dancer on the show. When the show auditions for a new dancer, Tracy and Penny apply (against their mothers' wishes), but are treated badly at the audition by the "Nicest Kids in Town," led by Amber Von Tussle (whose mother produces the show). At school, Tracy learns some dance moves from the black kids, lead by Seaweed, and at the Sophomore Hop she's noticed by both Corny Collins and Link. Bang, she's on the show, and Link is attracted to her, which infuriates Amber. She's also getting popular, which is even more infuriating to Amber and her mother.
Offers pour in. Tracy wants her mother to be her agent, but Edna, a very fat woman, is reluctant to even leave the house, so Tracy persuades her (with the help of some fabulous clothes from Mr. Pinky and his Hefty Hideaway). Later, Seaweed invites Penny, Link, and Tracy to a "platter party" at his mother's record shop. The integrated dance party is such a success that everyone schemes to integrate the TV show during Mother-Daughter day, but a riot breaks out when they attempt to do so, and all the female characters get carted off to jail. Everyone except Tracy eventually gets out, but Link manages to get in to see her and profess his love for her--he also frees her by cutting through the bars in her cell. Elsewhere, Penny has been tied up in her bedroom for "going to jail without permission," and Seaweed rescues her--they've fallen in love too, which won't sit well with Penny's bigoted mother.
Everyone ends up at Maybelle's, where they scheme to integrate the Miss Hairspray contest, which is surrounded by armed guards. As the contest kicks into high gear, Amber and Tracy are neck-and-neck, even though Tracy is not there. Amber is about to claim the prize when Tracy and the others burst in--as do the guards, who turn out to be Seaweed, Maybelle, and all the other kids from the "wrong side of the tracks." Tracy dances, and everyone joins in, even Amber and her mother, as the Corny Collins Show is officially integrated.
- Good Morning Baltimore
- The Nicest Kids in Town
- Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now
- I Can Hear the Bells
- (The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs
- It Takes Two
- Welcome to the 60's
- Run and Tell That!
- Big, Blonde, and Beautiful
- The Big Dollhouse
- Good Morning Baltimore (reprise)
- (You're) Timeless to Me
- Without Love
- I Know Where I've Been
- (It's) Hairspray
- You Can't Stop the Beat
None yet, but wait till next year!
If you've read other of my reviews and lists here, you might know that I'm not a proponent of rock musicals. I think the form is not inherently suitable for a Broadway-style production, and the few rock musicals that I've liked have been anomalies.
Well, shut my mouth. This is easily the best rock musical ever created, and after only two listens to this CD I can say with confidence that it's going to be one of my favorite musicals, period. For one thing, the songs are incredibly catchy, and many are eminently hummable. Shaiman obviously understands both rock and Broadway, which cannot be said for the vast majority of composers of rock musicals--either you get painfully fake rock from the Broadway-only folks, or you get totally dull songs from guys who aren't even good rock composers, let alone Broadway-style composers. For another, the characters are all individuals, and quirky enough to be memorable one and all, both vocally and lyrically. All of the main characters get at least one major song to sing and often get solo lines in the ensemble numbers. And--thank GOD--the lyrics advance the plot, and are extremely witty to boot. I can't tell you how many times I chuckled or laughed out loud while listening. In comparison, while I enjoyed The Producers, I didn't laugh half as much, because the lyrics often substituted fairly heavy-handed shock humor for actual wit.
(I think I figured out why this rock musical succeeds while others are dire: the music is mostly in the style of 1950s and 1960s songs, which emphasize singers rather than the beat. Also, the orchestrations mute the music a bit while characters sing--no heavy drums to interfere with the singers--which is an immense help. One reason I hated Rent so much was that the music often drowned out the singers. Also the songs sucked, but that's a different issue.)
The plot appeals to me; it manages to be humorous and relevant at the same time. It's the ultimate celebration of outsiders: fat folks, "negroes," and even cross-dressers, all of whom are shown to be superior to the "norms" struggling to keep them tied down. Also, being a fat chick myself, I have to appreciate such songs as "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful," even if I'm not blonde. The end of the show has one of the highest-energy final numbers I can recall in any musical, and it must be overwhelming on stage.
The cast is superior, though I do wish they'd gotten an actress to play Penny who sounded a bit different from Marissa Jaret Winokur--you sometimes can't tell whether it's she or Kerry Butler singing. Anyway, Winokur is rather reminiscent of Ellen Greene in Little Shop of Horrors, or even Rachel York in Victor/Victoria, with her baby-innocent voice, but more dynamic. It's normally a kind of performance I don't like, but Winokur makes it work. Also of considerable note is Mary Bond Davis, who nearly steals the show with her confident belt. Dick Latessa is rapidly becoming one of my favorite supporting musical actors; he sounds utterly convincing as he sings of his love for Edna/Harvey Fierstein in "Timeless to Me," and his voice is almost as good as it was a dozen years ago in The Will Rogers Follies. Speaking of Fierstein, he doesn't get that much time on the CD, though he certainly makes his presence known! He's a non-singer of course, with a voice described by John Waters as "Clarence 'Frogman' Henry meets Kate Smith," but it's a wonderful character voice, and he is, of course, an outstanding actor. Speculation has arisen as to whether he'll be nominated for Best Actor or Best Actress; regardless, he's a shoo-in for some kind of Tony nod. I hope to hear Corey Reynolds and Matthew Morrison on future projects; they both sound very good, and I'd like to see if they can hold their own in shows where they aren't overshadowed by eccentrics dancing around them.
I have a few minor gripes. The song "I Know Where I've Been" is very pretty, but its slow and serious tone is jarring after the frivolity of the rest of the score. Also, is there some unwritten rule that says that if a show has black characters, they have to sing a gospel-style or religious song? Finally, the male characters could have been a bit more eccentric (I'm not including Fierstein here); maybe they were crazier on stage, but on the CD they come off as overall more ordinary than the females.
Admirable, though some of the pictures could be bigger. We get a full booklet that has company credits, a song list with actor names, a cast list in order of appearance, orchestra members and everyone responsible for the creation of the CD, a message from John Waters, a plot synopsis, and a full libretto. There is one large picture of the Nicest Kids in Town on the inside front cover and a large picture of Harvey Fierstein as Edna on the back cover. On the inside of the back cover are six disappointingly small pix of various performers. I'm surprised there isn't a larger pic of Winokur anywhere. There' are also a couple of nice large ensemble pix on the inside of the CD case and on the back. All the pix are captioned and in color.
Everything good you've heard about Hairspray is true, at least as far as the music is concerned. Hopefully, future composers of rock musicals will take their cues from this one. Most highly recommended.
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