Could a gore-obsessed gay filmmaker, thrown out of film school for smoking dope, carve a campy classic out of a cross-dressing, 350-pound transvestite named Divine?
You betcha, hun.
When art-house cinematographer John Waters made Hairspray the 1988 comedy film with Sonny Bono, Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry and little Pia Zadora he was a far cry from mainstream culture. But in 2003, four Tony Awards put Hairspray on the map, and the Little Theatre of Alexandria is helping keep it there.
The switch from screenplay to stage production was remarkably successful given the plays unconventional characters. Though whats not to love about a stubborn, star-struck teen who pursues her dreams against all odds. And then theres the adoring father who supports his family by selling exploding cigars and a steam-iron compulsive mother with a heart of gold, whos the polar opposite of June Cleaver.
With original music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman, the story takes place in segregated, 1950s Baltimore. Weight-challenged teenybopper Tracy Turnblad prays for the day she can get on TVs Corny Collins Show, a local American Bandstand clone. Together with gal pal Penny Pingleton, they swoon and squeal for the handsome crooner, Link Larkin, and dream of the day they can shake and shimmy on the show.
Tracy is no average teen; shes confident, determined and socially aware. Through her efforts to get black and white kids to dance together on the show Its so Afro-tastic, she declares she becomes the accidental integrationist.
In this production, director Sue Pinkman has brought her acting knowledge and directing skills together to forge a solid cast of 30 singer-dancer-actors into an energetic, leap-out-of-your-seat musical. The musical production is one of the cheeriest, most heartfelt to ever hit The Little Theatre of Alexandria.
Choreographer Ivan Davila creates magic by smoothly arranging everyone in sync and on target for some terrific dancing. In one number, 20 hoofers are groovin to The Madison in Pinkys Hefty Hideway, a shop for the weight-challenged, and in the case of Mr. Pinky (Scott J. Strasbaugh), vertically challenged, too.
Seventeen musical numbers, an off-stage eight-piece band and saucy reprises from red-hot mama Velma Von Tussle (Janette Moman) vamping her theme song Miss Baltimore Crabs give all the performers a chance to shine.
As for standouts, Shannon Kingett positively exhales Tracy adorable, irrepressible and feisty. Watch her turn the beat around from the first note of Good Morning Baltimore. And Gardner Reed masterfully portrays Corny Collins, the beloved bebop host with a heart.
Christopher Harris (Edna) and Larry Grey (Wilbur) are the perfect couple as the Turnblads. Harris provides great timing and humor, and their two-step duet, Youre Timeless to Me, proves opposites really do attract.
In addition, Adrian Cubbage plays black hipster Seaweed J. Stubbs with a deliciously sweet soulfulness to his voice in Run and Tell That, convincing Penny the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. And Brenda Park will rip your heart out as rhyming Maybelle, whos the savvy owner of Motormouth Records Shop. You will hold back tears during her powerful rendition of I Know Where Ive Been.
Gina Tomkus ably handles four yes, four parts: the scene-stealing, geeky gym teacher; one of the chorus of Pinkettes; Pennys dowdy overbearing mother, Prudy Pingleton; and the sexy leather-clad, whip-snapping prison matron. Praise also must be handed out to the whole Motormouth Gang, as well as little Derrick Blake Hopkins Jr., who snags some funny lines as Stooie.
Overall, its just a tremendously talented cast all around in Hairspray and a huge hit for The Little Theatre. Be sure to check out the excellent production to find out whether Tracy gets her man, if her hair is high enough, and how her pursuit of the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray plays out.
At The Little Theatre of
Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St. through August 13.
For tickets and information, call 703-683-5778 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com