October 2022 - You Can’t Stop The Beat: Hairspray at Popejoy Hall
From Ricki Lake doing "The Roach" to "Cootie" on a Broadway stage, Hairspray has entertained audiences for over 30 years in some form or fancy. The John Waters creation has gone from a gritty full-length movie to a colorful musical on The Great White Way, led by a girl that isn't society's standard of beauty and grace. But there is something about the character, Tracy Turnblad, the larger-than-life teenage girl whose dream of dancing on The Corny Collin Show makes us root for her from beginning to end. In her journey of finding love, acceptance, and joy, she sets out to make a difference for those around her. Set in the 60s, where segregation is alive and, well, the musical takes us on a journey of possibilities. As a fan of both the original film and the movie musical, I was excited to see the award-winning musical on stage.
Starting its six-night run at Popejoy Hall, the show opens with Tracy, played by Niki Metcalf, waking up to a brand new day performing "Good Morning, Baltimore," setting the stage for the journey ahead. Metcalf is a bubbly mix of vigor and optimum as Tracy. An ultimate guide for the adventures she experiences throughout the musical. Her vocals offer a terrific combination of what we hear from the movie and her stylings.
From that opening number, the show was a musical delight with plenty of standout moments. "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now" was a treat to watch on stage. Tracy, Penny, and Amber eloquently displayed the trials and tribulations of trying to be the perfect daughter for their mothers but wanting to be their women. "I Can Hear the Bells," taking place at the television station just before Tracy's audition, was sublime. The staging was simple but effective in presenting the relationship daydream of Tracy and Link. Velma, played by Addison Garner, killed it during her performance of "The Legend of Miss Baltimore Crabs" - batons and all. "Welcome to the 60s" was a colorful, showstopping number. Tracy's tour for Edna Turnblad of what the world has to offer is a bold, exciting, and eye-opening performance, complete with a diva voice riff moment by The Dynamites (Sydney Archbald, Melanie Puente, and Jade Turner). "You're Timeless to Me" was a beautiful number between a couple showing the audience that regardless of size and societal norms, the love of a good person always shines through. I almost started a mutiny when I thought one of the most poignant of the show got removed. Only to find out that they utilized it in another way. While the film presented the song "I Know Where I've Been" during the protest scene, the musical created a moment between Motormouth Maybelle, her children, and the cast. The moving performance highlighted the importance of standing up for what's right, regardless of the challenges or consequences. The one number I wasn't expecting was "The Big Dollhouse." This Chicago-inspired number was that big female ensemble performance the show was looking for, but it was entertaining to watch. I would have loved to see them incorporate "The New Girl in Town," but you can't have everything.
The cast was outstanding, and you couldn't help but notice the strong female characters on stage. Along with Metcalf (Tracy), Ryahn Evers as Amber Van Tussle pulled off the bratty demeanor we've come to despise. Prudy Pingleton, played by Emery Henderson, was terrific at conveying the timid mouse, kept tiny by her overbearing mother, performed flawlessly by Emmanuelle Zeesman, coming out of her cocoon to become the Checkboard Chick she was determined to be. Sadie Lee as Motormouth Maybelle fit to a tee. Soulful and fearless, Lee brought pride in self to the stage and expressed it clearly in her performance of "I Know Where I've Been." But the larger-than-life performance of Andrew Levitt as Edna Turnblad was everything. It was HIS role, and he milked every moment on stage. Levitt's performance is a real treat and a clear standout in the musical.
The male characters were exceptional. Nick Cortazzo was skillful as Link, giving the Elvis vibe all the way, with the pipes to boot. Wilbur Turnblad, portrayed by Ralph Prentice Daniel, was brilliant. The loving father and husband of the Turnblatt family were outstanding at being the encouraging patriarch, providing the rah-rah enthusiasm for his daughter when it came to following her dream and giving Edna that constant boost of confidence when she was feeling low. Seaweed J. Stubbs, played by Charlie Bryant III, captured the groove and swagger of Seaweed.
Applause to Emmanuelle Zeesman and Greg Kalafatas. They worked their acting chops triple-time by performing three different roles to perfection. Zeesman gives new meaning to the phrase over the top, but I was there for every moment!
Overall the production was a smash and an entertaining night out. My daughter and I screamed for the Albuquerque shout-outs from Tracy, Edna giving love to "The Land of Enchantment," and Matron's idea of working for the Lobos. We left the theater discussing every element of the show while singing our favorite songs to the car. You'll sing "You Can't Stop the Beat" for a few days. I haven't stopped since I got home.
Hairspray runs from October 7th-9th. For showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit popejoypresents.com.
Author: Teresa Robinson is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of New Mexico Entertainment Magazine