“Hairspray” is one of those musicals that has gotten better with age. It debuted on Broadway 20 years ago and is one of the few musicals-based-on-a-non-musical-movie that proved to be successful, inspired by the 1988 John Waters’ classic of the same name. (The musical was turned into a movie in 2007, bringing the whole thing into a head-spinning full circle).
The show is back on the road and is just as fun as ever, now playing at the Fox Theatre through April 9.
“Hairspray” follows the adventures of a plus-sized gal with plus-sized dreams in early 1960s Baltimore.
Our plus-sized gal in question is Tracy Turnblad (Niki Metcalf), a high-school student who would love nothing more than to dance on the “American Bandstand”-esq “Corny Collins Show.” A place opens up on the show when one of the regulars has to take a “nine-month sabbatical,” so Tracy grabs her mousy best friend Penny Pingleton (Emmanuelle Zeesman) and heads down to audition.
Tracy has some pretty nifty moves thanks to spending a great deal of time in detention with several African-American kids, including Seaweed (Brandon G. Stalling.)
Tracy gets shot down at the audition because of her weight by snotty classmate Amber Von Tussle (Kaelee Albritton) and her mother Velma (Addison Garner) who produces the show. But Tracy gets her big break, so to speak, at a local dance when Corny Collins himself (Billy Dawson) spots her moves on the dance floor and puts her on the show. There she also catches the eye of not only the city of Baltimore, but of hunky teen idol Link Larkin (Will Savarese), who also just happens to be Amber’s boyfriend, as well.
In the midst of all this are Tracy’s parents, her equally buxom mother Edna (Andrew Levitt) and her goofy, joke shop owner father Wilbur (Christopher Swan), who try to help Tracy keep an even keel while she becomes the toast of the town.
But Tracy’s world can’t stay so rosy, and she runs into trouble when she tries to integrate the show so she can dance with her African-American friends, which is easier said than done in 1962.
Three main ingredients make “Hairspray” such an undeniable joy. First is the songs, which have all the catchiness and pep of early 1960s pop music. Second is theme of inclusiveness and acceptance that permeates the show. Outsiders of all stripes are celebrated as heroes.
Lastly, the dedication of the show to cast a man in the role of Edna Turnblad in honor of Divine, the drag queen who originated the role in 1988. Levitt performs as the drag queen Nina West and is a veteran of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and is absolutely fabulous as Edna.
“Hairspray” has cemented its place as a timeless show and a guaranteed good time. It doesn’t get much better than that.
“Hairspray” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through April 9. For tickets call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.