On Thursday, Jan. 11, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre launched its first musical of the New Year, “Hairspray,” based on the John Waters’ 1988 movie of the same title. The award-winning musical features a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.
An 8-piece orchestra under the direction of Helen Gregory, supports director Bill Fennelly leading a 27 member cast of seemingly nonstop dancing choreographed by David Wanstreet.
“Can you believe the dancing,” asked the woman behind me of her companion at intermission.
“I know,” said the other. “It’s a wonder they don’t crash into each other,” she said.
Indeed, the dancers use arms and hands as well as legs and feet keeping a frenetic pace in all directions of the stage. They must be exhausted by the end of the show.
“Hairspray” opened on Broadway in 2002. The musical won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. It’s a fast-paced production filled with laughter, romance and civil rights.
In addition to its success on Broadway and several tours, the musical was produced by NBC in December of 2016 as the live musical telecast “Hairspray Live! “
Catchy songs include “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now.”
A particularly powerful piece, “I Know Where I’ve Been,” is sung by Motormouth Maybelle (Altamiece Carolyn Cooper) and company. Its poignancy for many in the audience was evidenced by the number of people dabbing tears from their eyes as they watched police break up a peaceful demonstration,
The action takes place in 1962, two years before the federal civil rights legislation of 1964, Baltimore was taking steps to foster integration in schools, lunch counters, and other public places including local television shows. The teen dance shows were of particular concern as parents watched their children adopt black music and black dance moves, judging them to be too sexual.
Nevertheless there was money to be made and entrepreneurs to make it - both scrupulous and not.
Producing Artistic Director and Chief Executive Andrew Kato, in the “Footligihts" Notes sums it up: “Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, ‘Hairspray’ illustrates a group of students’ struggle to break racial barriers. Tracy, a larger-than-life girl in spirit and appearance, uses her label as ‘different’ to integrate the Corny Collins Show and act as a leader of change in her community.”
At the end of the show the man sitting next to me turned and said “I’d heard about all the fun parts of this show but I didn’t know it was so serious, too. I’m so glad I saw it.
And so am I.
Tickets start at $58 and are available at the box office (561-575-2223) or online(www.jupitertheatre.org).