Review: ‘Hairspray’ by Rockville Musical Theatre

Rockville Musical Theatre’s Hairspray is musical dynamite. The winning trio of Director T.J. Lukacsina, Musical Director Marci Shegogue, and Choreographer Rikki Lacewell make this show ovation worthy. With music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and a book by Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell, Hairspray (set in 1962 Baltimore) follows pleasingly plump teen Tracy Turnblad’s quest to dance on, and racially integrate, the popular “Corny Collins Show.”

Jim Adams as Edna Turnblad and Richard Greenslit as Wilbur Turnblad in Rockville Musical Theatre's production of 'Hairspray.' Photo by Stasia Steuart Photography.
Jim Adams as Edna Turnblad and Richard Greenslit as Wilbur Turnblad in Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of ‘Hairspray.’ Photo by Stasia Steuart Photography.

Jim Adams’ drag performance as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mom, was among many standout performances in Hairspray. Adams showed off superior acting and singing chops in the racy number “You’re Timeless to Me,” a duet with Richard Greenslit, who played Wilbur Turnblad. Adams also excelled in “Welcome to the 60s,” and in her scenes with lead Caitlin Grant, who played Tracy Turnblad. Adams did well portraying a “simple housewife of indeterminate girth.”

Danielle “Danie” Harrow, as record shop owner Motormouth Maybelle, brought forth amazing pipes that lifted songs such as “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful,” “I Know Where I’ve Been,” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Harrow was a crowd pleaser.

Grant made the song “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” an anthem for Tracy Turnblad, expressing the sentiment that “I wish every day was Negro day.” Grant sang “It Takes Two” with verve. The tunes “The Madison,” “Nicest Kids in Town,” and “It’s Hairspray” were headlined by Michael Iacone, who brought a comical cockiness to TV dance show host Corny Collins.

Tami Howie played stage mom Velma Von Tussle; she pleased the crowd with her solo in “Miss Baltimore Crabs.”

The delightful cast included engaging performances by Bailey Wolf, who played Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend; Derek Tatum, who played Tracy’s love Link Larkin; Christopher Polio, who played Seaweed J. Stubbs, a Black teenager in love with Penny; Kendall Sigman, who played Tracy’s hated dance rival Amber Von Tussle; and Pamela Northrup, who played Penny’s mom, Prudy. Northrup performed jazzy scatting in the show.

Caitlin Grant as Tracy Turnblad and Christopher Polio as Seaweed J. Stubbs in Rockville Musical Theatre's production of 'Hairspray.' Photo by Stasia Steuart Photography.
Caitlin Grant as Tracy Turnblad and Christopher Polio as Seaweed J. Stubbs in Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of ‘Hairspray.’ Photo by Stasia Steuart Photography.

Lacewell’s choreography was magnificent, especially in the opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore,” which had 23 actors on stage at once. I also liked the crisp hip-shaking and hoofing in the number “Cooties.”

Shegogue conducted the Hairspray Orchestra, which included herself, Scott Richards and Steve Przybylski on keyboards; Rodrigo Posada and Jada Twitty, percussion; Steve Ward, trumpet and trombone; Charlie and Chris Condon, reeds; Ricky Peralta on guitar; and Brian Bera on bass.

Color and a 1960s feel permeated the costumes designed by Lee Michele Rosenthal and Ginger Ager. The teenaged characters sported period threads, and the leading female characters sported colorful dresses, especially Adams (in drag) and Howie.

Jessie Krupkin provided many period-setting props. I liked Motormouth Maybelle’s record player prop, which sat atop a scenery wagon.

Lukacsina designed the set with the help of Reston Community Players’ Dan Widerski, who designed some of the set pieces. I liked the scenery wagon that Grant stood up against–as if she were in bed. The rest of the set primarily consisted of Baltimore rowhouse facades and the Turnblads’ humble living quarters. The set was punched up by the scenic painting of Krupkin, Lukacsina, Andrew R. Dodge, Dana Robinson, Kathie L. Rogers, and Steve Magenheim.

Lukacsina did a good job coordinating a large cast and using the theater space–he had actors running through and dancing in the aisles. There was a slight problem with the orchestration–actors’ lines were sometimes swallowed by the music. Judging by the raucous audience response, however, whatever glitches there were didn’t matter. Hairspray is a fabulous evening of family entertainment.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Hairspray, presented by Rockville Musical Theatre, plays through July 21, 2019, at The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville, MD. For tickets, call 240-314-8690 or go online.