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Hairspray – Vancouver

Posted on July 17, 2015 at 1:58 pm by David Jones — Make a Comment



You can’t stop this beat! Hairspray is simply the best!

Fighting Chance Productions is one of the busiest theatre groups in Vancouver. They are endlessly pumping out award winning musicals and this summer they are reaching back to a classic of the genre.

This summer they reach back to the 70’s to present Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar!

If you live in Vancouver, I want you to win two free tickets to this show – learn how at the end of this review for Hairspray.

(Note: Art is subjective. One-person’s sublime evening out is another person’s torture. I want to celebrate what went into creating the show and how I felt the audience reacted. Then I will allow my cynical Uncle Max to have a short retort. I will also post the cost of tickets.
The thought is you can then decide is the show is to your taste and worth the money they are asking. Does Uncle Max talk you out of it? Or did the rest of the review convince you to go? Let me know.)

Hairspray By Theatre Under The Stars
Until August 22nd

Oh! Oh! Oh! They hit it out of the park with this one.

Sometimes the Theatre Under The Stars shows are more grate than great but here we have a great book, dynamic score, fantastic cast and some pretty stellar direction!

Bad-boy filmmaker John Waters wrote the original Hairspray in 1988 as a love-letter to his teen years growing up in Baltimore in 1962. There was racial unrest but many were feeling optimistic because Kennedy was in the White House a new age was dawning in America. Teenagers were focused on the latest dance crazes, hip new clothes and really big hair.

The story concerns one teenager – the pleasantly plump Tracy Turnblad, who gets into trouble at school because of her ratted up hair, and her best friend, the repressed and clueless Penny Pingleton. Both race home after to school to watch the locally shot dance programme The Corny Collins show and swoon over heartthrob Link Larkin. Tracy also yearns to be on the show as a regular dancer but her mother the housebound Edna Turnblad discourages that thinking to save her daughter from heartbreak.

Tracy remains optimistic and tries anyway. She also is big hearted and cannot see why there is not full integration on the TV show as oppose to the black dancers being regulated to once a month on “Negro Day”.

One of the best aspects of the John Water’s screenplay as adapted by Marc O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan is it mix of real social issues through a teenage perspective that doesn’t neuter the content but does soften the ugly. When an inter-racial relationship develops of the sister says; “They are going to kill him” not once but twice and it’s not sent up or played for laughs, it’s stated and that adds an edge to an often very funny show. 

The script also allows for the baseness of fascinated teenagers; talking about the flasher who lives next door, rats at their feet and allows for their raging hormones to make them go weak in the knees, the subversive edge from the original is still there in it’s musical form.

The music is catchy and infectiously playful and the lyrics are decidedly unsentimental and downright funny which often makes you smile and sometimes sigh at the same time. When Tracy’s parents declare their love to each other he sings “You’re like a stinky old cheese dear, just getting better with age.” In “Good Morning Baltimore” as Tracy and the chorus extol the virtues of the city and backup singers echo “Yes, more or less, we all agree.” The main villain’s anthem to herself “Miss Baltimore Crabs” she sings how she won the crown “They padded their cups, while I screwed the judges”.

Directors Sarah Rodgers delivers her best show to date and has assembled a brilliant cast and keeps the whole show wildly fun but doesn’t shy way from the racism issues.

Although the 34 member casts have a range of training and experience they all dig in an make this world come alive.

Erin W. Walker is powerhouse dynamo as Tracy. She has the infectious impishness and a strong determination to succeed and that voice – like a rock star!

Andy Toth as Edna Turnbald (the part is done by man always because of the original star in the 1988 movie was Divine a infamous drag queen) with a delightful blend of low class and affection that is warm and funny. Matching him is Ryan Purdy as Wilbut Turnblad who although technically too young for the role creates a mature and playful father figure superbly and know how to get the most out of joke line.

Hannah Williams plays best friend Penny and has a wonderful sense of comedy playing her ditzy lines with sincerity. She adds a naughty sexual edge to the character when she becomes smitten with a Seaweed played by David Lindo-Reid, Mr. Lindo-Reid is a brilliant dancer with a soulful bombastic voice and his song “Run and Tell That” is one of many music highlights in the show.

Speaking of highlights – Cecilly Day brings such a roar of approval for her soaring and poignant rendition of “I Know Where I Have Been” that I am pretty sure Harbour Seals in nearby English Bay popped out of the water in appreciation.

It’s such a huge cast of characters played deliciously by a very adept cast. Dustin Freeland – fantastically charming as Link Larkin, Chris D. King – commandingly funny as Corny Collins, Maris Gold – explosively talented as Little Inez, Lori Ashton Zondag – sexily cruel as Velma Von Tussle and Elyse Maloway is perkily petulant as Amber Von Tussel.

Ack! Must not forget the very funny and chameleon-like abilities of both Georgia Beatty and Graeme Thompson who both play a variety of characters!

The rest of the cast all deserve mention for the heart and energy they brings to their parts – each gives it their all; Michelle Bardach, Henry Beasley, Lyndsey Britten, Josh Chambers, Brianna Clark, Daniel Curalli, Sophia Curalli, Daren Dyhengco, Tenanye Haglund, Raylene Harewood, Nathalie Joyal, Greg Liow, Emily Matchette, Grace Newson, Blake Sartin, Melissa Sciarretta, Nicol Spinola, Jennifer Suratos, Lindsey Ali Watson, Michael Wilkinson and Elise Wilson.

The band under Chris D. King (pulling double duty) direction is viscously tight and full of vitality. Julie Tomaino as the choreographer creates some witty and wild dance routines for the cast.

The fact that the material is equal parts, innocent, naughty and important is likely why everyone is pouring their hearts into it. Their passion is palpable and it caused the almost sold out crowd to leap to their feet in a well-deserved standing ovation that no doubt startled the Stanley Park wildlife.

Leaving the outdoor venue is always tricky – it’s a lot of people squeezing through small exits and onto dark paths yet everyone was joyously and unhurriedly cooperative. Another sign of a great show it takes away the ‘grumpies’. 

What part of the sixties were we in? In one montage some girls from Woodstock wandered through. And what was up with whose blue pajamas? It looked like the Dynamites were going to sing “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee.”
The set had some challenges; you send a lot of the show staring at actor’s butts as they try to push the giant platform upstage repeatedly.
Speaking of set, why on earth, when your actresses are simply killing it is the song “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now” would you completely upstage them by bringing out a giant set piece and clumsily unfold it to reveal confusing…magazines (?), album covers (?), photographs (?) with back-up singers. The impact of the song and the work by the artists was trampled on rather than highlighted.

Oh, Oh, Oh this is the nicest show in town! If you want to laugh, and dance in your seat and get swept up with it’s important historical message of equality this wonderfully wacky musical is perfect for you.

Tickets for adults are $45 / $40 and $30 (they get cheaper the further back you go) – youth and children are $30 is every section.
Groups of 10 or more get $5 off above prices.
Also on Monday August 3rd tickets are for Adults $35 / $30 and $20 and youth and children are $20.
It’s an outdoors stage: Bring Blanket and or hoodie, it’s gets cold. Bug repellent and flashlight for when you leave, are also helpful.



JCS Poster Final

Fighting Chance Productions is one of the busiest community theatre groups in Vancouver. They are endlessly pumping out award winning musicals and this summer they are reaching back

This summer they reach back to the 70’s to present Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar!

I want to give you two tickets to see it for free! If you live in the Greater Vancouver area and want to win, it’s easier:


1) Paste this sentence on Twitter – just copy it and paste it:

WIN FREE TIX to Jesus Christ Superstar by @F_C_Productions #FCSuperstarTix & read about Hairspray by @TUTSVancouver https://shar.es/1st0nq


Someone from Fighting Chance Productions will choose the winner on July 25th . Winner will be contacted directly by them.

David C. Jones
(and Uncle Max)