Sunday, August 15, 2010


Back in the day, “nice” girls at my school teased their hair into “flips” like Mary Tyler Moore. The more adventurous girls sported big “beehives” and the “bad” girls brushed their hair straight back into a “D.A.” so it feathered out like a duck’s {well} “rear end.” That was 1962. We didn’t know teasing caused breakage and spraying melted the ozone. And we didn’t know a lot about the world. John Waters set his (now cult) film, HAIRSPRAY (ostensibly about integration on an erstwhile Bandstand TV show) in 1962 when a chubby, white teenager in Baltimore takes on the establishment. HAIRSPRAY introduced Ricki Lake and the fabulous Divine to audiences everywhere.

As you well know, HAIRSPRAY is now a Tony Award winning musical (eight, to be exact). I’ve seen several versions, including the original and I’m here to tell you that you won’t find a better production than Reagle’s, playing through August 22nd. Marissa Perry repeats her Broadway performance as Tracy Turnblad, the teenager with a heart as big as all outdoors and hair almost as high as the giant sequoias. There are two BIG reasons to see Reagle’s production: Perry’s thousand watt energy surge and Dan Dowling, Jr. as Perry’s mother.

Dowling is nothing short of miraculous. He’s hilarious, of course, as the dragged out, dragged down drudge of a housewife who just wants the best for her daughter BUT he gives Edna an inner glow which touches the soul. How often does that happen in musical comedy? If HAIRSPRAY goes back to Broadway, he oughta be their man.

The Reagle production has even more stars: Davron S. Monroe, as Tracy’s detention buddy, can dance (and sing!) like nobody’s business and Angela Birchett delivers the gorgeous “I Know Where I’ve Been” so powerfully, you almost believe it’s a real anthem. Nick Peciaro is a delightful Beau for Tracy and Mark Linehan makes the Dick Clark caricature deliciously over the top.

Directors Todd Michael Smith and Judine Somerville come from the original Broadway production. To their credit, every nuance of the plot is crystal clear (which I can’t say of other productions of HAIRSPRAY I’ve seen). They know when to push the slapstick and when to pull the heartstrings. When they bring on the showstopper, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” you’ll feel “the motion of the ocean ... etc.” and you won’t be able to stop your feet from stomping. I wish I could see it again!