Review: Hairspray at JCC's CenterStage [Theater]

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2 ½ hours of solid, toe-tapping, feel-good entertainment. That’s what CenterStage of Louisville brings to audiences in their colorful and comic production of the hit Broadway musical, Hairspray.
 
Based on the 1988 film of the same name, Hairspray follows the story of spunky and pleasantly plump teen, Tracy Turnblad, as she dances her way to a spot on a local TV program, “The Corny Collins Show.” While Tracy becomes an overnight celebrity, she finds that the people who helped to get her there are not allowed her same opportunities—thanks to the political and racial tensions in 1962’s Baltimore.
 
While the storyline follows the formulaic pattern of the standard musical, this well-cast production (under the direction of John R. Leffert) brings enough life and energy to the plot that it doesn’t even matter. From her first steps on stage, Jill Sullivan shines as Tracy Turnblad, and dances and sings for the next several hours with endurance that many marathoners would envy. Tamika Skaggs (Motormouth Maybelle) and LaMont O’Neal (Seaweed) deliver strong performances that resonate with the audience. Annette McCulloch as Velma Von Tussle brings her villainous character to life, and Hannah Gregory, as Tracy’s best friend Penny, is a comedic jewel.
 
Accolades to Butch Sager (costume design) and his crew for keeping up with a multitude of wigs and hairpieces consistent with historical styles, and to Theresa Bagan for a lighting design that highlights the whimsically sweet tone of the script—and for the striking opening moment of Act II.
 
While the scenes were numerous, the transitions between them were fluid and painless, facilitated by a continuation of the action, made possible by the creative use of space in the design and direction of the production.  
 
On Saturday night, the mic cues were consistently slow, resulting in the beginnings of many lines being lost to the audience, but the near-capacity crowd didn’t let that stop them from showing their enjoyment with a standing ovation at the play’s end.
 
Hairspray continues its run through July 24th at the Jewish Community Center. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by calling (502) 459-0660. CenterStage has open seating, with the first several rows being reserved for season ticket holders. A limited amount of rush tickets are available in person on the show day for Sunday evening, Monday and Thursday performances. Rush tickets are $10.
 
Image: Courtesy of CenterStage