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Theater review

Theater review
Hairspray Murat Centre Through March 13 Hairspray is no comb-over. It's far out, choice, funky, groovy, hip, jazzed. It's 1962 Baltimore in a precise, compassionate over-the-top Cinderella story poking its finger into the eye of the beholder. It's kitsch cornering wisdom like a sunray spreading across the floor and up the wall.
Natalie Hill, Worth Williams and Jackie Selden in the Broadway in Indianapolis touring production of 'Hairspray'
What you experience from the Murat stage is beyond film or CD because this cast and orchestra are so full of energy, so full of heart. Tracy Turnblad (Keala Settle) lives to dance. She's a typical '60s pop-loving teen. One problem: She's plump with a hairstyle to match. Other problem: The Civil Rights Act of 1960 doesn't exclude uncivil interpersonal relationships. When Tracy shows up to audition for a spot on this musical's parody of American Bandstand, producer Velma Von Tussle, "Miss Baltimore Crab Princess of a long time ago" (Susan Cella), cuts her down with small-minded vitriol. Undaunted, Tracy proves hefty and agile are not mutually exclusive. To his credit, Corny Collins (Troy Britton Johnson), the idiot-looking show host, is no airhead after all. "You've got to keep up with the times; put people on the show who look like the people watching it." For skipping school to audition, Tracy is sentenced to detention and demoted to special ed, putting her in the company of Seaweed (Alan Mingo Jr.), whose swingin' moves seem too good for a once-a-month "Negro day" on The Corny Collins Show. "I just think it's stupid we can't dance together," Tracy says, and she puts her mind and body where her mouth is. She demands and gets changes. The real heft of Hairspray is in its creative concept, notably the book. Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan put who we are squarely on the shoulders of parents. In a microcosm of four sets of families, the values are the spectrum of what you see is how you get to be. With lyrics and music to match the spine of the story and choreography to make sure we don't so much as blink lest we miss a beat, this is a worthy contribution to the movie-into-Broadway-musical concept that's becoming a comfortable vehicle for producers to back. John Pinette is an endearing Edna and Stephen DeRosa imbues Wilbur with sparkle and love. They encourage Tracy to be smart, honest to herself, caring for others. Charlotte Crossley as Motormouth Maybelle delivers the zinger of the show with "I Know Where I've Been," yet the bedrock image is with "Timeless to Me," a patter-song of love between Edna and Wilbur. Hairspray lets you believe everyone can dance together. Why does the music have to stop? Continues through March 13 at the Murat, Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets are $21.50-$68.50 at Murat or Clowes box offices or online at, or call 239-1000.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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