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Paul Stancato's Regional 'Hairspray' Can't Stop Beat

You may have seen Hairspray a number of times, but director Paul Stancato and a talented cast inject tongue-in-cheek jokes, new sight gags and other elements into the musical, without obscuring the themes that fans love.

The latest production, running through Aug. 28 at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, is still a unique “Welcome to the ’60s” kind of show.

You’ll immediately be enveloped by the music, and the pastel backdrops and round shapes are eye candy for kids and adults alike. Michael Battari and Ronald Case handle the costumes and sets.

Danielle Arci plays Tracy Turnblad, the lovingly naïve protagonist, with a realism often lacking in other performances of the most famous big-girl leading role in musical theater.

Her big facial expressions rival those of the greatest Seaweed to ever “Run and Tell That!”.

Eric LaJuan Summers’ adorably bulbous eyes combined with his gift for comedic timing make for the best highlights of the show.

Summers’ love interest, Penny Pingleton, is played by Gina Milo with a lovable verve and delectable ditziness.

Another standout is Felicia Finley’s Velma Von Tussle, the bigoted villainess. She lends her strong voice to back her nastiness.

Finley gives fans a reason to love to hate Velma, thanks to the color she brings to the role. Don’t miss her baton twirling bit as she reminisces about her time as “Miss Baltimore Crabs.”

William Thomas Evans’ turn as matriarch Edna Turnblad is somewhat lazy.

The role calls for the nuances and mannerisms of a woman worn out by the world, but we never forget that this Edna is a man wearing a dress and a fat suit.

The talented ensemble provides some notably enjoyable touches as well.

The dopey female gym teacher offers the girls in her gym class extra credit for taking showers, and the principal’s fly is open when he reprimands Tracy.

Danielle Arci plays Tracy Turnblad, the lovingly naïve protagonist in Hairspray.

Motormouth Maybelle’s big number in Act II has been known to drag in other productions, but Terita R. Redd, who also played the part on Broadway, brings down the house with the showstopping “I Know Where I’ve Been.”

Her last note garners its own standing ovation.

The speed and energy in Antoinette DiPietropolo’s choreography reminds us that this is not your average Hairspray.

Check out intricate, well-toned moves in songs such as “Welcome to the 60s” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” which also make excellent use of the stage’s space and the audience’s imagination.

Different versions of Hairspray conclude with various endings, and for the Hairspray enthusiast, the climactic plot choice in this production leaves a little to be desired.

However, the Tony winning score, creative dance numbers and awesome talent provide great entertainment for the whole family. You’ll leave the show never wanting to ‘stop the beat.’

To purchase tickets for Hairspray visit www.JohnWEngemanTheater.com.


 

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