HAIRSPRAY by Bay Area Musicals rocks at Victoria Theater.

Cassie Grilley (“Tracy Turnblad”) and Company in Bay Area Musicals’ 2019 Production of HAIRSPRAY. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

HAIRSPRAY: Musical. Music by Mark Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman & Mark Shaiman and a book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan. Director and choreographer Matthew McCoy. Music direction by Jon Gallo. Bay Area Musical Theatre (BAM). Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, San Francisco, CA. Tickets  July 6 – August 11, 2019

HAIRSPRAY by Bay Area Musicals rocks at Victoria Theater. Rating: ★★★★☆

From my previous review: “Hairspray is based on the 1988 John Waters film and opened in 2002 on Broadway to rave reviews winning eight Tony awards. Since then it has had a national tour, a London West End production and is still making the rounds of local theatres. The action takes place in 1960s segregated Baltimore. “Full bodied” teenager Tracy dreams of dancing on the local TV “The Corny Collins Show.” She wins a spot on the show becoming a celebrity and uses her new won status to campaign for racial integration. The adroit writing “integrates” the social implications without preaching creating an incredible entertaining evening.”

It all begins with the ballad “Good Morning Baltimore” before the trials and tribulations of teenage love mixes with the seriousness of racial segregation  and eventual a hopeful ending. Bay Area Musical Theatre (BAM) has mounted the show with a distinct stamp that vacillates between comedy, farce, seriousness and a sound system that had hearing aid wearers turning down the volume. At least the women sitting in the adjacent seat did. With that caveat, BMAT has rounded up a stellar cast and almost all earn accolades including the ensemble. The music is a mash-up 1960s juke box ballads, rhythm and blues and a topping of gospel. The energy emanating from the stage is contagious and even though you may not become an aficionado of the 50-60’s era music the entertainment value will be appreciated. The hairdos are fantastic.

The star of the story is plus size Tracy Turnblad played by Cassie Grilly with personality to spare, a voice that can belt and nimble dancing feet to match the ensemble. She must share the limelight with many.  Harvey Fierstein stole the Broadway show as Tracy’s mother Edna. Scott DiLorenza as Edna plays it straight without flamboyance becoming a real winner.  By doing so he/she adds great depth to the charming duet “You’re Timeless to Me” sung with Paul Plain playing her husband Wilber. Thus his/her early stints upon the stage give greater value to his/her transformation in the second act wearing eye-popping costumes.

There are a number of individual show stoppers to match the many production numbers by the ensemble. Dave Abrams as Seaweed J. Stubbs flies through the air with the greatest of ease between splits and kip-ups bringing spontaneous applause.

Dave J. Abrams (“Seaweed J. Stubbs”) and Company in Bay Area Musicals’ 2019 Production of HAIRSPRAY. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

Elizabeth Jones has two turns to wow the audience with “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Then there is Melissa Momboisse as knock-kneed Penny who shares a fine moment with Tracy and Amber (Lauren Meyer) in the trio “I’m a Big Girl Now.” You will have to look closely to make sure it is her with glasses off in a tight fitting dress dancing to perfection.

Elizabeth Jones (“Motormouth Maybelle”) and Company in Bay Area Musicals’ 2019 Production of HAIRSPRAY. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

You will be reminded of the “The Supremes” when Smita Patibanda, Chanel Tilghman and Peli Naomi Woods as The Dynamites hit the stage with “Welcome to the “60s.”

The primary love story is between Link Larkin (Kamren Mahaney) and Tracy that has a plethora of complications but true to the true love axiom all ends well. Larkin has the most difficult shoes to fill since he is playing with the individuals mentioned above. His excellent tenor voice and stage presence keeps him in the forefront.

The villains of the show are Velma Von Tussle (Sarah Sloane) and daughter Amber (Lauren Meyer) who tries unsuccessfully to derail Tracy. Tracy’s observation that Amber has “acne of the soul” seems believable even though Lauren Meyer is gorgeous and has a wonderful singing voice. Another main character is tough but fair TV host Corny Collins played by Scott Taylor-Cole with a powerful baritone voice to match that role.

The multiple shenanigans and the evening of humor never dilute the social injustice expertly written into the script that includes a demonstration broken up by the police and a stint in the jail by most of the cast.

Finale. Bay Area Musicals’ 2019 Production of HAIRSPRAY. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

CAST: Cassie Grilley as “Tracy Turnblad,” Melissa Momboisse as “Penny Pingleton,” Scott Di Lorenzo as “Edna Turnblad,” Kamren Mahaney as “Link Larkin,” Elizabeth Jones as “Motormouth Maybelle,” David Abrams as “Seaweed J. Stubbs,” Kennedy Williams as “Little Inez,” Paul Plain as “Wilbur Turnblad,” Lauren Meyer as “Amber Von Tussle,” Sarah Sloan as “Velma Von Tussle,” Scott Taylor-Cole as “Corny Collins,” Bonnie Lafer as “Prudy Pingleton/Others,” Kim Larsen as “Principal/Male Authority,” Stephen Kanaski as “Brad, NC,” Ronald James as “Fender, NC,” Emma Sutherland as “Brenda, NC,” Brendan Looney as “Sketch, NC,” Claire Pearson as “Tammy, NC,” Steven McCloud as “I.Q., NC,” Peli Naomi Woods as “Detention Kid/Dynamite,” Smita Patibanda as “Detention Kid/Dynamite,” Chanel Tilghman as “Detention Kid/Dynamite,” April Deutschle as “Detention Kid,” Carlos Carrillo as “Detention Kid,” Zoe Hodge as “Detention Kid” and Ajay Prater as “Detention Kid.”

CREATIVE TEAM: Matthew McCoy, Director, and Jon Gallo Musical Director. Cat Knight as Stage Manager, Andie Fanelli as Assistant Stage Manager, Lynn Grand as Set Designer, Brooke Jennings as Costume Designer, Eric Johnson as Lighting Designer, Anton Hedman as Sound Engineer, Clay David as Prop Designer, Jackie Dennis as Wig Designer, Richard Guiterez as Wardrobe Master and Stewart Lyle as Technical Director.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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