Cast members from Hairspray (Rainbow Stage Communications)
Does it make me a frivolous reviewer to say that I loved this show? I'd had a fairly dreadful day. I wasn't really in the mood for song and dance, crowds, or so much shiny hair and optimism.
And I loved this show.
Rainbow Stage was a sparkly mainstay of my musical-theatre-drenched childhood, but their productions over the last decade have often felt...blah. But director Tracey Flye (with this cast and crew) has done the magic thing: Rainbow Stage has remembered how to play.
From about the eighteenth bar of Good Morning Baltimore
, Stephanie Pitsiladis's (Tracy) contagious enthusiasm sent literal shivers up my cranky neck. And then everyone began to play.
Jennifer Lyon, finally free of those boring ingénue roles, creates a deliciously, maniacally unhinged Velma in an unrestrained performance of physical comedy. Larry Mannell (Wilbur) embodies playfulness with every piece of footwork and goofy grin (mirrored on the faces of every audience member in my sightline). Ken Overbey (Seaweed) has so much energy and charisma that his whole body seems to hum. Raylene Harewood (Little Inez) is a live spark. George Wendt (Edna) forgoes the mincing and falsetto favoured by Travolta in the movie version, and plays a straight-up drag queen mama - and every time his voice drops a register (the traditional drag world wink) the audience loves him.
The point of Hairspray is that you don't need to be perfect to shine. Conformity is a dead-end ambition. Dream big and live big, and for everyone's sake, laugh and play while you're doing it. This cast understands high camp and full-on playfulness, and the audience responds with ebullience (including the quickest, loudest standing ovation I've seen in years).
"If I can't dance, it's not my revolution," said Emma Goldberg (albeit apocryphally). Sometimes I get weary and forget that it's unrestrained enthusiasm that changes the world. And a catchy beat keeps it spinning.Chandra Mayor, award winning Winnipeg-based poet and novelist.