HAIRSPRAY Pantages Theatre Hollywood

The Company in The National Tour

In the multi-Tony Award-winning 'Hairspray,' it's 1962 - the '50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore's Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with a big hair and an even bigger mother, has only one passion--to dance. She wins a spot on the local 'American Bandstand'-likeTV dance program, "The Corny Collins Show" and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program's reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob and Elvis wannabe Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her 'do? You bet your chrome tailfin.

Jim J. Bullock and JP Dougherty - Keala Settle and Aaron Tveit

Based on John Waters's hilarious 1988 film, the musical comedy Hairspray takes Tracy from the soundstage of a 60's-style dance show to the streets of Baltimore to a downtown rhythm and blues record shop. White kids dancing to black music has never been so much fun.

J.P. Dougherty and Keala Settle with the Company of the National Tour

Although the eye-tickling sets, lighting and costumes are bold and outrageous, and the show has its share of racial humor, fat jokes, and sexual innuendo, this infectious musical is satire and camp at its purest and least apologetic, and never loses track of its heart. As Tracy Turnblad, hefty dynamo Keala Settle's mixture of energy and vulnerability has the audience in her corner from the start. J.P. Dougherty, who plays Tracy's man-in-drag mother, Edna Turnblad, captures laugh after laugh with impeccable timing, a truck driver's voice, and the ability to move his large frame across the stage with expert grace and rhythm. Edna's romantic, mock-insulting music hall-style love duet and dance with her diminutive but doting gag-shop owner husband Wilbur is a charming highlight. ('You're like a stinky old cheese, babe/Just getting' riper with age'). Such moments, along with characters like the lesbian gym teacher, the flasher who lives next door, and a leering jail matron balance the show's essential sweetness and righteousness with hilarious edge.

Paul McQuillan and Company in The National Tour

At its core, the popsicle-colored musical offers lessons about acceptance of others and especially acceptance of self. Much of it is about realizing one's potential both mother and daughter blossom once able to tap their hidden potential. But the lessons are never preachy and are presented with such imagination and humor, the learning is always fun. When Tracy needs to help her agoraphobic mom cut loose and live a little, for example, a Supremes-like trio in dazzling red steps out of a poster and onto the sidewalks to deliver the message personally. Among the advice offered: "The future's got a million roads for you to choose/ But you'll walk a little taller in some high-heel shoes."

Amy Hillner, Tara Macri, Holly Rone - Aaron Tveit

Hairspray's book is by playwright, novelist and cartoonist Mark O'Donnell and playwright, TV and film writer Thomas Meehan (who also won the Tony for his book for the Broadway musical 'Annie,' music by veteran film composer Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Staging, choreography and score are bright, bold, energetic, with infectious melodies and lyrics, hooking into the audience and not letting go until the final moments of the standing ovation. Its appeal lies in its recreation of an old-fashioned musical comedy that's so kitchy that it never seems old-fashioned. The irresistible show, affecting and affectionate, is ferociously determined to win us over and does.

Naturi Naughton, Charlotte Crossley, Alan Mingo Jr. - JP Dougherty, Keala Settle, Jim J. Bullock

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 Photos by Chris Bennion

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