Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Also see Stephanie's review of The Nance
The story takes place in 1962 Baltimore and follows the chubby teen Tracy Turnblad (Christy Burbank) as she pursues her dream to dance on the local after-school TV show "The Corny Collins Show." I remember a show like this in the early '60s where I grew up in Detroit. These shows were all over the country, local versions of "American Bandstand."
The action gets going when there is an opening for a dancer on the show. One of the staff dancers has to take a leave of absence because of her pregnancy. With the support of her mom Edna Turnblad (Joshua Vallano) and her BFF Penny Pingleton (Veronica Baca), Tracy tries out for the role and wins.
Tracy turns to a black friend, Seaweed (Paul Ashby), for dance moves, and the play tilts toward Tracy's new goal of integrating the pure-white dance program. Tracy's attempts, failure, then re-attempts at integrating the show serve as the core plot elements. She is at first thwarted by the supper-white mother-daughter team of Velma (Emily Melville) and Amber Von Tussle (Kelli Ingle), who resist anything that might knock them off their central pedestal on the "Corny Collins Show."
In the movie version of Hairspray, Tracy's mom was played by the infamousand hugetransvestite Divine. The idea of having Edna played by a male in drag continues in the musical, which is a good decision, since it's a source of continual comedy. While Divine is irreplaceable, the concept still has legsand strong, sturdy legs at that.
Avery tends to save the most challenging productions for his own direction, which is wise. His deep experience, confidence and knowing touchplus his flair for the Big Showserve ALT well. It's hard to imagine Les Misérables directed by anyone in Albuquerque other than Avery. His skills shine in Hairspray.
On opening night there were some creaky moments where the energy was in place but the cohesion took a second to two to catch up. I would guess this has been ironed out within a few more performances. Overall, this physically complicated show came off with high precision.
Peter Bennett does a nice job with the choreographya big role in this dance-centric storyand Ryan Jason Cook does a terrific job, as usual, with the set design, particularly the central power-packed prop in the final scene. Absolutely wonderful. Kudos to all of the performers and crew.
Hairspray, with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman and book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, is based on the 1988 John Waters film. The ALT production is directed by Henry Avery. Performances will run at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through June 19, 2016. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Sundays. On Thursday, June 9, there will be a performance at 7:30. Tickets are $24 for adults, $22 for seniors (65 and above), $20 for students (13 to college), and $14 for children (12 and under). You can buy tickets online at albuquerquelittletheatre.org or by phone at 242-4750, ext. 2.