San Fran Continues To Embrace Bruce and Hairspray

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Hairspray, a boufant comedy
Morgan Hill Times
By Camille Bounds
Friday, May 21, 2004

Move over Disneyland – The Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco in now the “Happiest Place On Earth.”

The touring production of “Hairspray” that won eight Tony awards literally flew into town with the force of a jumbo jet landing with bad brakes on a steep runaway. From the minute the curtain rises and chubby, idealistic Tracy Turnbland (Keala Settle) steps on the stage, the energy never stops. With a musical score that makes the audience move to the 60’s beat to sharp, crisp exuberant choreography, to dancers that give 200 percent, you have a lovefest that you only felt in the finale of “Mama Mia” except this carries throughout the whole show. Fasten your seat belts, you are in for the ride of your life.

Keala Settle as Tracy is a package of bombastic, nonstop movement with a great voice to match. If we could harness the energy she puts fourth at each performance our power shortage would be a thing of the past. She is a cherubic delight in the role of the idealistic, positive thinking Cupie doll that plans to change the world and get her hero in the end. She does.

Never mind that this is a frivolous, silly plot of the 60s with a message that comes through with remembrance of a past time. It works, its fun and a joy to watch. Tracy’s dream is to win a local teen age T.V. dance contest, win the heart of sleek hunk, Link Larkin (Austin Miller), and integrate the world starting with the T.V. stations of Baltimore.

Bruce Vilanch plays Tracy’s mother the indomitable Edna who tromps around draped in dowdy muu muu’s, hairnets and Gucci-type gowns. He trundles around like a hippo from Fantasia and underplays Edna in just the right places.

Terron Brooks as Seaweed, the black/white love interest, is another multi-talented energy machine that doesn’t let the patrons blink.

Eleven-year-old Kianna Underwood plays Little Inez Seaweed’s precocious little sister with the aplomb and maturity of her older counterparts and a singing voice that is developed beyond her years.

The fast moving, tight direction of Tony winning David O’Brien, David Rockwell sets and William Ivey Long’s Tony winning costumes are all amazing and won’t let the attention lapse. These are the areas of stage craft at it’s finest that we are fortunate to be able to experience.

This entire cast works with a freshness you don’t often see in touring companies, they work like it’s the first perfect performance after final dress rehearsal. Not an easy task after performing the same part dozens of times. These people emit the feeling that they are thoroughly, ultimately and sincerely enjoying themselves. The audience can feel this and with this feeling becomes a part of the total picture instead of the casual onlooker. A unique experience.

Here is another experience well timed for the times. If you want to just feel good go and see “Hairspray”.

Camille Bounds is the arts and entertainment editor for the Western Division of Sunrise Publications.