The lights dim in the San Diego Musical Theatre and the crimson curtains pull back to reveal Tracy Turnblad (Bethany Slomka) rising from her bed, belting out the opening bars to Good Morning Baltimore, the iconic gateway song to every “Hairspray” iteration. The quirky ‘60s set design perfectly complements the costume department and the swinging vibes Tracy and her friends are exuding in every song and every dance. Every set piece is retro yet classy, aesthetic yet purposeful, not a wasted space on the stage. Beautiful is one way to describe it. Vibrant, colorful, and delightful are other adjectives that come to mind. With this carefully staged set, it feels like we are transported back in time, the irony of this time travel in the rhetoric against racism that still finds a vocal voice in the present.
Despite the social and racial boundaries Tracy blatantly ignores and the flack she receives, she maintains her chipper attitude. Why be angry, why be rude, why be cruel when you can be happy? This seems to be her mantra throughout the musical, and stick to her radical views she does.
We follow Tracy around and live vicariously through her. When she and Penny (Emma Nossal) rush home after detention one day to watch the Corny Collins Show where Corny Collins (Zackary Scot Wolfe) and the Council Members perform “The Nicest Kids in Town,” we want to bop our heads and get up out of our seat to dance with them. Tracy is obsessed with the show and with the leading man, Link Larkin (Nickolas Eiter) and it is easy to see why: with his slicked back dark hair and chiseled good looks, his dance moves to make you swoon, and an angelic voice gifted from the heavens, he’s an all-around perfect package of a man.
This infatuation takes on a whole new spin when Tracy sings “I Can Hear the Bells” when she tries to audition for the Corny Collins Show and gets to meet Link in the flesh. Time stops when he accidentally bumps her and Tracy is hard-core fangirling at this momentous moment in her young life. She envisions an entire future of them together and it is a really cute interlude right before she gets a verbal smack down by the one and only Velma Von Tussle (Eileen Bowman) via “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs.”
One of the most important themes is how appearances don’t matter nearly as much as personality and how beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We see this firsthand when Tracy gets turned away from the show before auditioning because she isn’t the typical ‘look’ of the other female Council Members. Velma, often portrayed as villainous and despicable, is still portrayed as villainous and despicable but Bowman makes her laughable and psychotic. An overall fun and ironic character as the foil to our optimistic protagonist.
Tracy, bummed that she wasn’t given the chance to follow her dreams, goes home and back to the bore that is high school…and winds up in detention when the principal catches her and her gravity-defying (also apparently illegal) hairstyle, where she meets Seaweed (Kenneth Mosley) and his colored friends. Tracy, lovely girl that she is, bonds immediately with Seaweed because of their shared appreciation for music and dancing despite their difference in appearance. He invites her and Penny back to his mom’s record shop (and Link tags along whoopie) where they begin to pick at the scab that is the American prejudice against black people.
If you’ve ever watched “Hairspray,” you know that right about now we see how pure and honest Tracy is, when she determines to march against the racism at the TV station. She has a good head on her shoulders and an honest heart beating in her chest, and Link can’t keep up. He walks away, from Tracy, from his fears, from what is right. And Tracy is devastated.
Our fearless heroine doesn’t let that stop her though, relying on her conviction on what is right and wrong and marching in a protest against segregation at the TV station. There is an interesting scene in a jailhouse at the Baltimore Women’s House of Detention, where Tracy and co get sent to and all the women behind bars sing The Big Dollhouse, which is an excellent use of the jelly bars as they dance and use the frame as props. The rest follows past iterations more or less, just desserts being served and a racially integrated show the product of Tracy’s jail time and perseverance.
And one of the best moments is when Because representation matters. Seeing someone up on a stage or a screen, be them white, black, brown, yellow, thin, fat, gay, straight, anything and everything in between the rainbow and off the spectrum, inspires others to be their genuine selves. Seeing someone who looks like you is living, breathing proof that failure is not the default for someone who is different, it is the catalyst to striving for success.
As always, I recommend anyone and everyone to watch “Hairspray.” This one has sexual undertones that cannot be denied, actually it is probably the most sexual I have ever seen Tracy Turnblad, but it is what John Waters would have wanted because any kind of shaming is not okay, and Tracy embodies all of that. You will not be disappointed. Every director brings something new to the story, and Lapp brought out the humor to tackle invested racism America has yet to forsake. For a country reeling from divisiveness and the color of our skin, this musical is a must-watch to learn from, laugh at, and hopefully make a difference.
Dates: August 3 – September 4, 2018
Director: J. Scott Lapp
Conductor: Andrew Orbison
Cast Members: Bethany Slomka, John Massey, Steve Gunderson, Nick Eiter, Emma Nossal, Kenneth Mosley, Lauren King Thompson, Eboni Muse, Eileen Bowman, Zackary Scot Wolfe, Debra Wanger, Janae Parson, Andra Caston, Madeline Edwards, Kiara Geolina, Taylor Henderson, Kyle Leatherbury, Marisa Moenho, Renata Moenho, Dylan Nalbandian, Joy Newbegin, Dallas Perry, Susanna Vaughan, Austin Wright
Official Website: www.SDMT.org/shows/Hairspray
San Diego Musical Theater: www.SDMT.org
Social Media Pages:
- Facebook: @SanDiegoMusicalTheatre
- Instagram: @SanDiegoMusicalTheatre
- Twitter: @SDMTmusicals
- Youtube: @SanDiegoMusicalTheater
Summary: It doesn’t get much better than a big girl with big hair and a big personality in Maryland in the 1960s. “Hairspray” has stayed incredibly relevant throughout the years, and was also adapted into a 2007 film starring John Travolta, Zac Efron, and many other recognizable stars. Even better, from Aug. 3 to Sept. 2, you can catch this Broadway show in San Diego. Broadway shows in San Diego are always a blast, and you can make the perfect date night out of it.
Show Times: Wednesdays at 7:30 PM, Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays at 8:00 PM, Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM.
Book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Directed by J. Scott Lapp
Music Direction by Don LeMaster
Choreographed by Jill Gorrie
Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score
It’s 1962 in Baltimore, Maryland, and quirky, plus-sized, teenage Tracy Turnblad has one dream: to dance on The Corny Collins Show. When she gets put in detention with the African-American students in the school, they teach her some of their dance moves, and her new found groove wins her a spot on Corny’s show. Overnight, Tracy transforms from a nobody into a star and uses her newfound influence to advocate for racial integration on the television show. You’ll be tapping your feet to the beat as Tracy and friends triumph over high school bullies, racism and enemies everywhere of big girls with big hair. | Source: SDMT.org
Shay Santos | Writing Contributor & Filmmaker
B.A. | Film & Comparative Literature | San Diego State Univ.
Strangely obsessed with rule-of-thirds, color theory, and lightbulbs, Shay should not be left alone with a camera for any extended period of time. She loves telling stories, be it on page or on screen and at the discretion of her two friends. Her one rule for filmmaking is that every shot should be aesthetic. Her second rule is that you don’t have to follow the rules. And the third unspoken rule (punishable by excommunication from the boba squad) is that it absolutely MUST tell a story nix sound, dialogue, and SFX. Catch Shay chilling in the manga section of Barnes & Noble or jamming out to anime OSTs. Instagram @zafra.photography | View My Blogs
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