THE NEW JERSEY THEATRE LAUNCHES ITS 73RD SEASON WITH A TRIUMPHANT BANG
by HENRY EDWARDS
Paper Mill Playhouse's production of “Hairspray” has dazzled the critics, one good reason why the run of the show has been extended through Oct. 24.
Of the revival Peter Filichia of The Star-Ledger asked rhetorically: “Has there ever been as triumphant a season opener in the 73-year history of the Paper Mill Playhouse? Only the oldest of old-timers will be able to say for sure …‘Hairspray’ enjoyed a 6½-year run on Broadway—but those who are kicking themselves for missing it can now say goodbye to their grief. Those who saw it way back when and want to relive the deliriously wonderful experience have a Broadway-caliber production waiting for them.”
Michael Sommers of The New York Times concurred, writing “this fast-paced crowd-pleaser packs every ounce of its original whirlwind appeal.”
“Hairspray,” with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, based on the 1988 John Waters film “Hairspray,” opened on Broadway on Aug. 15, 2002, went on to win eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and to enjiy run for more than six years, closing on Jan. 4, 2009 after 2,642 performances
Set in Baltimore, Maryland, in June 1962, the show tells the story of teenaged Tracy Turnblad (Christine Danelson), a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, whose only passion is to dance. She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show,” and overnight is transformed from an awkward overweight outsider into an irrepressible teen celebrity. Tracey goes on to vanquish the program’s blond princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin (Constantine Rousouli) and integrate the segregated television show without denting her ‘do.’
Following the tradition of casting a man as Tracey’s mother, the plus-sized Edna Turnblad, Christopher Sieber has a ball stepping into the larger-than-life character previously assumed by Divine, Harvey Feirstein and John Travolta.
The other principals in the radiantly talented cast include Lee Roy Reams (Wilbur), Arielle Campbell (Little Inez). Donna English (Velma Von Tussle), Kasey Marino (Corny Collins), NaTasha Yvette Williams (Motormouth Mabel) and Alex Ellis (Penny).
Director Matt Lenz and choreographer Michele Lynch have joyfully replicated Jack O'Brien's direction and Jerry Mitchell’s choreography.
In common with the very best stage musicals, Paper Mill’s “Hairspray” is unbelievably infectious and seductive, drenching its audience with a tidal wave of humor and entertainment.
Paper Mill Playhouse is located in Millburn, New Jersey, less than 25 miles away from Manhattan. Next up "Les Misérables," starting Nov. 19.