Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Florida Studio Theatre

Also see Bill's review of South Pacific

Greg London, Brook Shapiro and Cast
Florida Studio Theatre has gone BIG to open its 2014-15 winter season with Hairspray at the Gompertz Theater. Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics), Scott Wittman (lyrics), and Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan (book) have adapted John Waters' film of the same name so well that, in my opinion, the only reason to bother with the film would be to study how the musical was adapted. It is an utterly joyous piece, perfectly reflecting our heroine's attitude toward life. Until I saw the original Broadway cast and a bit later the first national tour, I had never actually seen people dancing in the aisles at a Broadway show, but that was a usual reaction to "Welcome to the '60s" and "You Can't Stop the Beat." I was a bit surprised when FST announced the show, but I had forgotten how integral the subplot about race relations is, making it perfect for a theater with serious aspirations.

If last year's Spamalot seemed a huge leap forward in terms of sheer size, Hairspray adds six cast members to the 16 last year. The production is beautifully designed in vivid blues and pinks by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay with fine costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford the show seems to never stop dancing its way through 1960s Baltimore. Music director David Truskinoff and his band of four manage to sound like eight or ten. They keep the songs, very derivative of '50s and '60s doo-wop and bubble gum rock, zippy as they need to be. Fine sound design by Ryan Kilcourse enables an audience that maybe is not familiar with the lyrics (definitely not me) to understand most of it, not an easy task. For a small regional theater company, this production is quite an accomplishment.

Brooke Shapiro dominates the proceedings as Tracy. Although many teenage girls fantasize about playing the role, few can dance, dance, and dance some more for 2-1/2 hours and still be able to belt most of score. Ms. Shapiro does all this and more. I have seen at least one Tracy in a professional production who was nowhere near as good as this. Greg London as Tracy's mother Edna does fine work, handling both the comedy and real emotions equally well. D.C. Anderson completes the family; he and Mr. London stop the show in their second act duet "Timeless to Me." In supporting roles, Dane Becker as Link Larkin, Patrick Connaghan as Corny Collins, Jennifer Fouché as Motormouth Maybelle, Sarah Joy Ledtke and Alaina Mills as mother and daughter Velma and Amber Von Tussle, and Lindsay Nantz as Penny Pingleton fill out a very fine company.

Hairspray as presented by Florida Studio Theatre is certainly the happiest musical currently in town, a great big Christmas present!

Florida Studio Theatre presents Hairspray through January 4, 2015, at The Gompertz Theater, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit

Wilbur turnblad: D.C. Anderson*
Link Larkin: Dane Becker
Corny Collins: Patrick Connaghan
Motormouth Maybelle: Jennifer Fouché*
Male Authority Figure: Stephen Hope*
Velma Von tussle: Sarah Joy Ledtke*,br>Seaweed: Melvin Brandon Logan*,br>Edna Turnblad: Greg London*
Amber Von Tussle: Alaina Mills*
Penny Pingleton: Lindsay Nantz
Female Authority figure: Stacey Scotte*
Tracy turnblad: Brooke Shapiro*
Little Inez: Tavia Riveé*
Ensemble: James Michael Avance, Heather DiBianco, Kathryn Huxtable, Jeffrey Johnson II, Joe Moeller*, Savannah Sinclair, Jennifer Theriot, Kristopher Stanley Ward*

David Truskinoff: Music Director/Conductor/Piano
Saxophone: Tom Ellison/Greg Amos
Bass Guitar: Michael Dempsey
Drums: Tony Bruno

Director and Choreographer: Richard Stafford
Music Director: David Truskinoff
Scenic Designers: Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay
Costumes Designed and Constructed: Michael Bottari and Ronald Case
Costume coordinator: Nicole Wee
Lighting Designer: Mike Foster
Sound Designer: Ryan Kilcourse
Wig Design: Gerard Kelly
Stage Manager: Roy Johns*
Assistant Stage Manager: Rebekah Small*

Photo: Maria Lyle

--William S. Oser