Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
September 2, 2011
You can’t stop the beat.
It doesn’t matter how many times “Hairspray” is produced – and it’s appeared on San Diego stages many times since its 7-year Broadway run began in 2002. But still, it’s totally irresistible if it’s done well – and at Moonlight Stage Productions, it’s done very well indeed.
The singing and dancing are terrific, thanks to the clever, humorous staging of Steven Glaudini and the high-kicking, energetic choreography of John Vaughan.
The outstanding cast of 28 is ebullient without being cloying, and the whole effort never takes itself too seriously, though it’s dealing with issues of race and integration in the early 1960s. This Marc Shaiman /Scott Whitman/Mark O’Donnell/Thomas Meehan musical is based on a John Waters film. So, just how serious do you expect it to be?
But the underlying theme of equality and self-esteem, of plus-sized outsiders being able to win the prize and get the cute guy and integrate an ‘American Bandstand’-like TV dance show in 1962, well, that’s serious business. Then again, big-boned and big-hearted Tracy Turnblad has a fleshy Mom who’s always played by a man – first Divine, then Harvey Fierstein , John Travolta and now Randall Hickman, but it’s a sight-gag that’s taken very seriously. Hickman, an oversized comic and vocal talent, is tailor-made for the role; Edna gets all the funniest lines, and Hickman delivers them with deadpan, perfectly-timed precision. Extra bonus: his onstage husband is played to the hilt by his real-life partner, Doug Davis. They’re delightful together, and they stop the show with their heartfelt love-duet “You’re Timeless to Me .”
Musical theater veteran David Engel is probably the best, least smarmy Corny Collins I’ve ever seen. As host of the influential Baltimore program, Corny is forward-thinking enough to let Tracy on the show and let the black kids bring their rhythm and blues dance on, too.
All the secondary characters are well played, making this very much an ensemble piece. At the center, Kim Zolozabal is charismatic as Tracy, a little shrill at times, but totally believable and thoroughly lovable.
The costumes, and especially the gigantic, over-teased wigs, are a hoot. The scenes change rapidly, with excellent use made of the stage apron, so the cast seems to come out into the enthusiastic, overflow crowd, and the crew has time to move set pieces around.
Meanwhile, in the pit, Elan McMahan deftly conducts a marvelous 15-piece orchestra that keeps the pace lively and buoyant.
So what’s not to like? Warm, late-summer evenings under the stars, a feel-good, upbeat musical with a positive message – it all helps take your mind off these tough times. You owe it to your family to give ‘ em a tease – and a generous spritz of “Hairspray.”
“Hairspray” runs through September 3 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.
©2011 PAT LAUNER