What a tease

Drury Lane’s ‘Hair­spray’ lives up to mu­si­cal’s bouf­fant charm

Chicago Sun-Times - - FEATURES - BY HEDY WEISS The­ater Critic/[email protected]­times.com

Watch­ing the in­fec­tiously funny, play­fully sub­ver­sive, tal­ent-filled re­vival of “Hair­spray” now at the Drury Lane Oak­brook Theatre, it is im­pos­si­ble not to think of Dick Clark, who died last week.

True, this hit 2003 mu­si­cal — in­spired by John Wa­ters’ 1988 cult film, and fea­tur­ing a bub­bly, hiply comic score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman — is set in 1962 Bal­ti­more, while Clark’s teen dance show, “Amer­i­can Band­stand,” was rooted in nearby Philadel­phia. But the “Hair­spray” cel­e­bra­tion of the huge so­cial changes of the early 1960s, with the ex­plo­sion of rock ’n’ roll and civil rights ac­tivism, and the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion and more, sug­gests a shared mind­set, even if Clark took a some­what more main­stream ap­proach to things than Wa­ters. And in her jubilant Drury Lane pro­duc­tion, di­rec­tor-chore­og­ra­pher Tammy Mader, who’s one of sev­eral mega-tal­ented women to emerge on the Chicago mu­si­cal scene in re­cent years ,blithely cap­tures el­e­ments of both ap­proaches.

From the mo­ment the wide-eyed, plump-as-a-dumpling high schooler Tracy Turn­blad (the ir­re­sistible Lil­lian Castillo) opens her eyes and pops out of bed, with her mas­sive bouf­fant hairdo in­tact and her ir­re­press­ibly sunny, open-hearted, de­ter­minedly op­ti­mistic spirit ready to greet the world, you sense this is some­one who will not be de­terred. Ini­tially, her dream is to com­pete in a dance con­test on “The Corny Collins Show” (Rod Thomas plays the lik­able Clark-like fig­ure), and maybe even meet teen idol Link Larkin (an ideal Eric Al­te­mus).

But as things progress, Tracy finds her­self cam­paign­ing for racial in­te­gra­tion as she cham­pi­ons the right of black dancers, as well girls like her­self (far from the stan­dard slim, blond beauty) to be on the show. To be sure, the times, they are a-changin’. And girls like Am­ber Von Tus­sle (Holly Lau­rent), a chip off the block of her mother,

www.drury­la­neoak­brook.com the “Collins Show” pro­ducer Velma Van Tus­sle (Keely Vazquez in Cruella de Vil mode) are go­ing to face some se­ri­ous di­ver­sity com­pe­ti­tion.

The story’s wink-wink sub­ver­sive­ness be­gins at home, with Tracy’s full-size, self-doubt­ing, blue-col­lar mom, Edna (played in drag by Michael Aaron Lin­der, who is real and funny, and gives Divine a run for “her” money), and her small, warm-hearted dad, Wil­bur (Tim Kazurin­sky), the owner of a joke shop who urges his daugh­ter to pur­sue her dreams. Tracy, an out­cast at school, bonds with her fel­low stu­dents in de­ten­tion hall: a group of black kids, among them the su­per-charged dancer Sea­weed J. Stubbs (the droll, mar­velously elas­tic Jon-michael Reese), whose mom is Mo­tor­mouth May­belle (Feli­cia Fields, who brings her fully soul­ful spirit and voice to the party), fa­bled owner of a record shop in a black neigh­bor­hood.

Mader, her­self an ace dancer­ac­tress, has cre­ated a pro­duc­tion marked by speed, light­ness of touch, easy hu­mor and sen­sa­tional dance num­bers. Castillo, with ex­ten­sive cred­its in re­gional the­ater, is in­stantly lov­able as she dances up a storm in her to­tally geeky plaid skirt and white blouse, falls head over heels for Link and en­dures the hor­rors of a women’s pen­i­ten­tiary.

Re­becca Pink (as Tracy’s nerdy pal, Penny Pin­gle­ton) and Holly Stauder (as Penny’s prud­ish, big­oted mom, Prudy) are right on tar­get in the show’s third moth­er­daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship. Alexis J. Rogers, Don­ica Lynn and Lisa Estridge sing up a storm as the Dy­na­mites, the black girl group. Seiz­ing the spot­light as Sea­weed’s sis­ter, Lit­tle Inez, is 12-year-old Josh­lyn Lo­max. And the en­sem­ble of dancer-singers on the “Collins” show twist and shout with verve. Rarely has a so­cial rev­o­lu­tion been so much fun.

Tracy Turn­blad (Lil­lian Castillo, cen­ter) ral­lies her friends and neigh­bors dur­ing a pro­duc­tion num­ber in “Hair­spray” at Drury Lane Oak­brook Theatre.

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