by Lorie Lewis Ham
One would expect a musical named after a beauty product to be silly and fluffy, and while the musical Hairspray is filled with a lot of fun, energy, and laughter, it also has an amazing message–this is why it is one of my favorite shows. Hairspray opened this past weekend at the Reedley Opera House, presented by the Reedley River City Theatre Co., and I must say they have definitely done this show justice!
For those who have never seen Hairspray, it is about a young, slightly overweight, girl named Tracy whose biggest dream is to be able to dance on a local teen dance show called the Corny Collins Show. However, she does not fit the “type” of kids they want on the show. She is not alone in not fitting their “type” as black kids are also not allowed on the show except once a month on “Negro Day.” Through a series of unexpected events, Tracy actually does end up on the show, stirring up a lot of controversy along with a lot of popularity among the young viewers who can relate to her in ways they can’t to the other kids on the show–which they call the council. Along the way, Tracy also becomes friends with some of the ethnic kids in school who are amazing dancers and works to get them equality on the Corny Collins Show–again stirring up a lot of controversy and at one point even landing herself in jail.
The messages of equality, that is doesn’t matter how you look, being proud of who you are, and that just one person can make a difference in changing the world, is what makes this show for me. I find myself near tears every time I see it! To get on top of that a fun and amazing show as well, is an incredible bonus. The show is set in the early ’60s with the fun music styles of that time period. The songs are great and there is a LOT of dancing! This show may just be the perfect balance of a little of everything as it will have you laughing too.Top all of that off with a great cast and this becomes a must see show! Erik Valencia plays Corny Collins with just the perfect amount of cheese one would expect from a music show host of that era. Anna Martinez plays the very bigoted and evil producer of the Collins Show, Velma Von Tussle, perfectly–one of those villains you love to hate. Hannah Huyck, in her RCTC debut, plays Velma’s daughter Amber, the female star of the council until Tracy comes along, and is lovely with a beautiful voice, and is equally good at playing the bigoted young woman who takes after her mother. Niko Kazanjian, another RCTC debut, plays the male star of the council, up and coming crooner Link Larkin, with a perfect amount of charm and a dazzling smile. The rest of the council is made up of Jessica Runnels, Joseph Ham, Kelsey Ikemiya, Ben Applegate, Jacob Alvarado, Makayla Cowin, Aaron Mendoza, and Karissa Isaak-and boy can these kids dance and sing. A RCTC staple always seems to be amazing big group numbers, and this show is no exception!
Chelsea Harper plays Tracy Turnblad, the young teen who changes the status quo. She is another RCTC newcomer and did an absolutely amazing job as Tracy! Jeff Lusk plays Edna, Tracy’s mom (this character is always played by a man), who is one of my favorite characters. Jeff brings this woman to life perfectly–you never think about the fact that he is not a she. Dominic Grijalva plays Seaweed, the top dancer for “Negro Day,” who falls in love with Tracy’s best friend Penny. While this is his first time on the Opera House stage, I have seen Dominic in many shows–he has the most beautiful voice and is a great dancer. Bernadette Tasy plays the awkward, nerdy Penny perfectly, and she and Dominic have great chemistry together.
Annie Hobbs is fun as Penny’s controlling mother, and also has two other roles in the show. Jessica Williams plays Seaweed’s little sister Little Inez, and Lavetta Wheeler plays their mother Motormouth Mabel–who has one of the most beautiful and moving songs in the show, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Motormouth and Edna sing another great song together, “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful.” Taniman Clark plays Tracy’s funny and endearing dad Wilbur. One of my favorite songs in the show is a unique love song between Wilbur and Edna, “You’re Timeless To Me.” The rest of the cast are Eloy Mireles, Tommie Hill, Claude Goree, Marguee Laita, Jonathan Harris, Samantha Sandoval, Amber Herrera and Cassandra Charles.
The entire cast of this show did an amazing job. Other fun and familiar songs include “Good Morning Baltimore,” which opens the show, and “Without Love.” The show ends with another crowd pleaser and big musical number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
I am always amazed at how they manage to put on these big shows on such a tiny stage! Kudos to directors, set designers, music and vocal directors, and costumers for putting together all the perfect touches needed for this show. And special kudos to local hairdresser Lillie Valencia for the amazing hairdos! You just can’t do Hairspray without the crazy and big hair!
If you are looking for a wonderful, fun, and moving show with great music, don’t miss Hairspray, which runs at the Reedley Opera House until August 3. You can learn more on their website and on their KRL theatre event page.
Check out more local arts and entertainment articles in KRL’s A & E section.