‘Hairspray’ @ Chance Theater
by Zack Johnston
Two words come to mind from seeing Chance Theater’s production of the Broadway hit Hairspray: fun and professional.
The Tony Award-winning musical, which opened July 10, features a stand out cast and dazzling production design that brings audience members into the heat of early 1960s Baltimore.
A young and ambitious Tracy Turnblad has her heart set on becoming famous and getting the guy of her dreams, but her close-minded town presents every obstacle it can to keep her from expressing herself. Along the rough road to Tracy’s success, she helps to spark an effort to racially integrate The Corny Collins Show, a popular local dance show, in hopes that everyone can be free to enjoy themselves.
This light-hearted campy musical presents itself with infectious rhythms and charming humor, while instilling a timeless message of civil rights in America.
Each performer in this production, directed by Kari Hayter, brings a delightful energy to the stage with excellent comedic timing, powerful vocals and impressive choreography by Kelly Todd and Christopher M. Albrecht.
Adventurous and loveable Tracy is played by Taylor H. Hartsfield. From her captivating entrance for “Good Morning Baltimore,” Hartsfield is committed and alive throughout her whole performance. Her impressive vocals and comedic skills earn her laughs and applause while keeping the story moving.
Hartfield shares an amusing dynamic with Sarah Pierce who plays Tracy’s school friend, Penny Pingleton. Pierce stands out as a comedic performer in her scenes with Tracy, and in her own moments as Penny goes after her dream guy, Seaweed. The smooth and charismatic dancer is played by Xavier J. Watson, who brings charm and humor to his role.
When she’s not fighting for social change, Tracy is swooning over her love interest Link, a main performer on The Corny Collins show played by Cody Bianchi. Bianchi displays all the traits of a teenaged heartthrob while bringing a sense of vulnerability and his impressive vocals to his character.
Tracy’s main obstacle in her way is the bigoted producer of The Corny Collins Show and former “Miss Baltimore Crabs,” Velma Von Tussle. The spiteful show business woman is played by Camryn Zelinger who portrays all the characteristics of a possessed pageant mom, in all the right ways. As a producer, Velma’s goal is to simply put her daughter Amber, played by Ellie Wyman, into the spotlight. Wyman brings an abundance of sass and wit along with her amazing vocals to this coming of age diva.
While Tracy receives lots of support from her peers, her biggest supporters are her parents Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, played by Joe Tish and Robin Walton respectively. Tish gives a wonderfully convincing performance as Tracy’s bashful mother, and never misses a beat when cracking a joke. Walton is captivating as Tracy’s cheerful father, and brings a delightful level of authenticity to his performance. Together, this quirky couple exudes adorable sincerity and gut-busting humor.
The other seasoned actors of this production include Karen Webster and Corky Loupe who each play various characters throughout the show. Webster and Loupe each showcase their professionalism as comedic performers in their multiple roles.
Although Hairspray has its roots set in the early ‘60s, its message of pursuing happiness and what is right is one that is timeless. Hairspray runs through August 9 at the Chance Theater.
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