By Harvey I. Barkin | Filam Star EIC
SAN FRANCISCO – When you are a plus size coed and you want to make a big splash dancing, what do you think are your chances? Fat chance! And that’s about the size of it.
Sorry, it’s Baltimore, 1962 and politically correct is still not part of culturespeak.
But Tracy Turnblad (played by hair sprayed ‘do, Cassie Grilley in Bay Area Musicals’ production of Hairspray) finds herself in this situation.
She meets Seaweed J. Stubbs (Dave Abrams) who shows her some ‘tude and hot dance moves. And Tracy thinks she has an in to the Corny Collins (Scott Taylor-Cole) TV show.
Again, it’s a few years before the civil rights riots and the N-word is still around. When you see Seaweed bust a move, you know he could easily get into the Corny Collins show but integration is not allowed.
It falls upon Tracy to show Corny what she learned from Seaweed. Corny likes it but show producer Velma Von Tussle (Sarah Sloan) only allows token black dancers on Negro Night and her view is plain to see.
It gets really complicated because Velma’s daughter Amber (Lauren Meyer) is the reigning Miss Teen Queen and the main squeeze for Link Larkin (Kamren Mahaney). Then Tracy draws Link’s attention.
From here, Tracy wins the spot, Link and the momentum to effect social change.
Hairspray is a story about being proud of who you are and standing up for what’s right even if that makes you the only person who’s willing.
The big thing (can’t help it) about Hairspray is that it’s a catch-all for acceptance issues: obesity, race difference, geekiness (portrayed by Tracy’s BFF Penny Pingleton, played by Melissa Momboisse) and LGBTQ (portrayed by Scott DiLorenzo in drag as Tracy’s mom Edna).
In fact, one of Hairspray’s signature tradition is Edna Turnblad’s character which has been played in drag both by Divine in the original 1988 film and John Travolta in the 2007 movie..
The magic of Broadway musicals is the way the characters dance out of impossible, complicated situations and right into the heart of audiences. Pretty soon, the bravura performance leaves even the audience breathless, dismissing the small rational voice in their brains. It’s the feel good rapture.
Undeniably, Hairspray’s time period lends a lot of terpsichorean spectacles if you’re not sold by the story’s message. There’s the jerk, twist, skate, mashed potato, boogaloo and watusi variations into the dog and the swim with toe-tapping, hip-swinging songs.
If you are not millennial and didn’t got to Wikipedia to look up the aforementioned dance crazes, then you understand the feeling of seeing these dance moves performed by younger, fit dancers – restoring them to their former glory. As they say today, like, restored in high-definition.
Hairspray received eight Tony Awards, including best musical, book, score and direction. The original production ran for more than six years.
Bay Area Musicals’ production of Hairspray runs through August 11 at the Victoria Theatre at 16th street. It’s the final production for the 2018-2019 season.