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The pop/rock musical HAIRSPRAY didn’t miss a beat while claiming the stage in Salt Lake City this week. Last night’s production of HAIRSPRAY was a toe tapping, aesthetically pleasing show, with vocals that blew the roof off. The cast kept its audience dancing in their seats from curtain to curtain.
The new North American tour, helmed by original director Jack O’Brien and original choreographer Jerry Mitchell, is playing April 11 – 16, 2023 in Salt Lake City at the Eccles Theater. HAIRSPRAY is the story of a bold 16-year-old with big hair and even bigger dreams who showed us that if you dream big enough you can create change in the world both individually and collectively. Set in Baltimore in the 1960’s this production captures the hope of the civil rights movement while addressing the much needed changes both then and now. HAIRSPRAY shows that it only takes one person to start the change in terms of racism, self image, and so much more.
Niki Metcalf (Tracy Turnblad) is a big girl with big dreams of being on the Corny Collins Show. After being publicly shamed for her weight and desire to create change she found an even greater determination to make things happen – starting with winning the heart of the shows heart throb Link Larkin played by Nick Cortazzo. Metcalf’s energy was contagious and the perfect match for her show-stopping voice that opened the show with a personal favorite, “Good Morning Baltimore” and brought the house down while closing the show with “You Can’t Stop the Beat”.
When it came to vocals everyone was spot on, but a few performances from last night need to be noted. During the upbeat and fun number, “Welcome to the ’60’s”, The Dynamites (Sydney Archibald, Melanie Puente Ervin, and Jade Turner) made my jaw drop. Individually they were each powerhouses and together they made you want to jump to your feet with applause. Their voices were strong and powerful while still filling the theatre with a sound smoother than butter.
Taking the stage in “Big, Blonde & Beautiful” Lauren Johnson playing Motormouth Maybelle stole the show with a voice and stage presence that was bigger than life. Johnson was a joy to watch and a spotlight throughout the show. Later in the show she sang, “I Know Where I’ve Been” which was equally as stunning. Her performance was one that everyone will be talking about.
Providing the comic relief Andrew Levitt, who you have seen as Nina West from RuPaul’s Drag Race, playing Edna Turnblad and Ralph Prentice Daniel as Wilbur Turnblad were the perfect pair. Levitt and Daniel kept the laughs coming all night long. From start to finish their timing was impeccable, as they brought so many fun moments to the show.
The dancing is what truly made this show. The cast never stopped as they moved from musical number to musical number always dancing. A few stand out performers, Charlie Bryant III as Seaweed J. Stubbs and Joi D. McCoy as Little Inez were so fun to watch as they brought a vibrant new energy to the stage. The entire ensemble wowed the audience in every number with their upbeat and dazzling choreography.
I can’t end without commenting on the two characters that made your skin crawl, making them fantastic performers playing the parts of Velma Von Tussle (Addison Garner) and Amber Von Tussle (Carly Haig). While playing less than desirable characters, both women were incredible vocalists who brought the story to life. Haig, who stepped into the role as an understudy was flawless in her performance.
My favorite character in the show was played by Emery Henderson as Penny Pingleton. She had me laughing all night! Henderson had an incredible character journey as you watched her character go from the awkward best friend to a confident, fun-loving, girl who decided what she wanted and got it. Her voice was something else constantly surprising me with her fierce and stunning vocals which were showcased during “Without Love”. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment she was on stage.
HAIRSPRAY did a great job of reminding us that change is possible and we all play a part in making it happen. Let’s take a chapter out of Tracy’s book and make the world a better place.
To purchase tickets, Broadway-at-the-Eccles.com, call 801.355.2787 (ARTS) or visit Eccles Theater box office.
April 12, 2023