'Hairspray' keeps its bounce at Fair Park Music Hall

Written by DSM Columnists on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

6/25/2008 12:00AM CST
The Dallas Morning News

'Hairspray' keeps its bounce at Fair Park Music Hall

Nearly six years after it debuted on Broadway, Hairspray is turning out to be the most influential musical of the decade. To figure out why, check out the touring version that the Dallas Summer Musicals opened Tuesday.

Three things make Hairspray special: The stage adaptation of John Waters' cult movie adds just the right dash of sincerity so that the formerly tongue-in-cheek story about an overweight teen determined to integrate 1962 Baltimore taps into a deep American mythos, the pursuit of happiness. The score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman forges 1960s pop styles into beautifully crafted Broadway songs, and Jerry Mitchell's choreography (lovingly re-created here by Danny James Austin) keeps the fizz in the phosphate for all 2 ½ hours.

Here's the plot: Plus-size Tracy Turnblad (Brooklynn Pulver) tries out for a local TV dance show but is rejected by the evil producer. In detention, she picks up new steps from some black kids. Her new routine catches the TV host's eye and gets her a berth on the show, where the heartthrob, Link (Taylor Frey), eventually realizes he likes Tracy better than the producer's haughty daughter. But when Tracy insists that the black kids should be able to appear on the tube more than the one day a month to which they've been consigned, trouble erupts.

The big gimmick, carried over from the film, is that Tracy's mom, Edna, is played by a man in drag. Edna is so sensitive about her weight that she hasn't left the house in years, but Tracy fixes that, too. The point of the show is the people who've been discriminated against win out in the end.

Although this tour features a young, non-Equity cast, it maintains standards. Ms. Pulver seems so competent and practiced that she skirts falling into routine, but her singing is exceptional. In fact, most of the performers show off strong voices. It's a good thing, though, that a lot of the audience has already seen the musical movie remake, because the lyrics are even harder to understand than usual in the intractable Music Hall acoustics.

The performers zip through all the dance numbers as if their shoes were filled with helium, too.

For me, the most memorable aspect of this edition of Hairspray is Jerry O'Boyle's Edna. More than anyone else I've seen do the role, he really acts it. He never affects a self-consciously feminine gesture, but you believe him as a woman. He's got great comic timing, too – and his big number with his stage husband, Wilbur (Dan Ferretti) – "(You're) Timeless to Me" – brings down the house.

Even though the incessant, smarmy double-entendres clash with the musical's intrinsic sweetness and social conscience, Hairspray is beginning to feel pretty timeless itself.

Plan your life
Through Sunday at Fair Park Music Hall. 155 mins. $18 to $80. 214-631- 2787, www .ticketmaster.com

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