Hairspray is one of those shows that draws the audience in and is sure to put a smile on their face. Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s production of Hairspray is incredibly well done, and the production reminded me why I love the story and music of this show. There is so much to love about EPAC’s production of Hairspray from the outstanding performances to the vibrant costumes to the energetic choreography. In addition, there is also a message in Hairspray about how fighting for change is never easy, and that theme rings as true today as it ever has. Hairspray at EPAC under the direction of Edward R. Fernandez is incredibly well done and is a show that is enjoyable and inspiring; it should not be missed.
Hairspray is based on the 1988 John Waters’s film of the same name. Marc Shaiman wrote the music for the musical, and Scott Wittman and Shaiman wrote the lyrics. The book is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Hairspray takes place in the 1960s, and revolves around one teenager, Tracy Turnblad, whose dream is to dance on a local TV dance program, The Corny Collins Show. Once Tracy earns a role on the Corny Collins Show, she meets a variety of characters, and launches a campaign to integrate the dance show. Hairspray opened on Broadway in 2002, and won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical.
The production of Hairspray at EPAC is everything a summer musical should be: bright and lively with a strong and energetic cast. In the role of Tracy Turnblad is Ali Fleming. Tracy is full of strength and dreams, and Fleming brings out both of these characteristics of her character. Fleming comes across as vibrant and delightful, and her vocals from “Good Morning, Baltimore” to the last song, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” are all outstanding. Audiences will fall in love with Fleming’s performance as she brings a great deal of heart and passion to the role. Edward R. Fernandez plays Edna, Tracy’s mother. Fernandez is outstanding in this role. This is not the first time I have seen Fernandez play Edna, and he always is sheer perfection in this role. As much as he brings humor to the role, there is also a level of compassion and warmth he brings to Edna. Fernandez perfectly portrays this character and no one else brings the amount of humor and compassion to this role like Fernandez. I loved his duet with Fleming in “Welcome to the 60s.” Bob Checchia portrays Wilber, Tracy’s father. Checchia is perfectly goofy in the role. I really enjoyed him in this part as he is always going for the yuks in order to make Edna and Tracy smile, he also adds a lot of heart to the role. Checchia has great chemistry with Fernandez, and their duet, “Timeless to Me,” is a delight in this production. Playing Tracy’s sidekick, Penny, is Maya Burdick. Penny begins the show as a quiet and awkward teen and by the end she finds her stride and self-confidence. Burdick’s silly mannerisms and facial expressions add comedic flair to the role. Ian Sanchez plays Seaweed, Penny’s love interest and Tracy’s friend, who teaches her new dance moves. Sanchez is strong in this role especially in the end of act one in the number “Run and Tell That!” This number has strong vocals and excellent choreography. Alexander Gawn plays Link Larkin, a teenage heartthrob who Tracy has a crush on. I liked Gawn’s Link because he makes this role part heart throb and part love struck teen, and he plays this role with charm and youthful exuberance. The antagonist characters of this production are Amber Von Tussle, played by Casey Pry, and her mother Velma played by Lynne DeMers-Hunt. These two actors successfully portray the duo of spoiled child and her mother (who also is the producer of the Corny Collins Show) who try to get everything they want with little regard for others. Pry and DeMers-Hunt work well together onstage and their portrayal of their characters’ vainness and self-serving villainy add to the overall comedy of the show. In addition, DeMers-Hunt shines in her song, “Miss Baltimore Crabs.” Another standout performance is from Jordon Ross Weinhold who portrays Corney Collins. Weinhold is energetic and suave in this part. He also breathes life into this character that makes Corney relatable and relevant. Zenobia Decoteau plays Little Inez, Seaweed’s sister who dreams of dancing on the Corney Collins Show. Decoteau is spunky and vibrant in this role and she has wonderful energy in the number “Run and Tell That.” Lastly, Davina Lopez portrays Motormouth Maybelle, and she provides a strong presence onstage as she depicts this indomitable and independent character. Lopez is strong vocally in the song, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” The entire cast of this show is strong, and this show is truly phenomenal.
I also need to mention the artistic team who help make this show a success. Braden Hooter designed the colorful set. Tricia Corcoran choreographed the energetic dance number. Mercedes Mercano designed the vibrant costumes. Wig designs are by Kate Willman. Jeff Cuasano is the Lighting Designer and Albert Garcia is the Sound Designer. In addition, Zach Smith serves as the Music Director.
Hairspray runs at Ephrata Performing Arts Center through August 5, 2017. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.ephrataperformingartscenter.com or call the box office at 717-733-7966.
Final Thought: Hairspray at EPAC is a pure joy to experience and it is full of heart. This musical will lift your spirits. The entire cast of the show is phenomenal and full of pizazz. Run and get your tickets for this show. You will find yourself wanting to dance in the aisles by the end of the show.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.