BEVERLY -- Say hello to the triple threat, and then multiply. All the cast members in North Shore Music Theatre's production of "Hairspray" sing, dance, and act their high-energy hearts out in dazzling fashion in this Tony Award-winning musical.
North Shore is the first regional theater in the country to be granted the rights to create an original production of "Hairspray" while the Broadway version is still running. And with an engaging story line, delightful choreography, and an attractive design, the company has a genuine, guilt-free crowd pleaser on its hands.
Based on the 1988 John Waters film, "Hairspray" is about the travails of Tracy Turnblad (played beautifully by newcomer Bridie Carroll ), a 1960s Baltimore teenager whose dream to be a star on a popular local TV dance show sweetly morphs into a battle over inclusion among the city's white and black teenagers. Tracy's first hurdle is that she is not a size 2 and is therefore well outside the range of the kind of teen featured on the show. Plus she has to skip school to audition. Ultimately, her journey from detention to unlikely TV star rekind l es her mother's own large-scale dreams of fame.
While "Hairspray" is not necessarily profound, it is sincere in addressing how underdogs and outsiders of all kinds can beat the system and dance their way to acknowledgment. The book is incessantly cute, but manages to steer away from being camp: Writers Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan maintain a good-hearted purity in the dialogue even as they flirt with the 1960s version of the edge of good taste.
One of the main characters is performed in drag: Tracy's oversize and borderline housebound mother, Edna, played grandly by Paul C. Vogt . Vogt is a "MADtv" alum, and his comic chops shine throughout, especially with the able aid of stage veteran Dick Decareau , who plays Edna's ever-devoted jokester husband, Wilbur.
Director and choreographer Barry Ivan has a talented ensemble at his disposal. One standout is Inga Ballard as Motormouth Maybelle , the black grande dame of Baltimore's music scene. Ballard stops the show with her big-voiced rendition of the soulful "I Know Where I've Been."
Sarah Elizabeth Nischwitz is also endearing as the straight-and-narrow Penny Pingleton -- that is, until she meets Seaweed J. Stubbs , who dances and sings his way into her heart. Dashaun Young is just the right mixture of cool and sweet as Seaweed, as is David Larsen as the dance heartthrob Link Larkin . Longtime North Shore Music Theatre favorite David Coffee rounds out the cast in multiple comedic roles and is surprisingly adept in the show's splashy closing number, "You Can't Stop the Beat."
Howard C. Jones keeps the scenery for "Hairspray" on the simple side, letting the colorful -- and movable -- stage be the key element. William Ivey Long's costumes have Broadway written all over them, which is appropriate, as he designed for the original production. Each fabric and silhouette gives the production a crisp, playful 1960s look to go along with its toe-tapping charm.