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Huntington Bank’s touring ‘Hairspray’ is a rocking good time with a message

HIGH ENERGY! Those are the words that come to mind after seeing the Huntington Bank Featured Performance of the touring Broadway production of “Hairspray.” With a cast of 36 singers, dancers and actors the stage is excitingly filled with 60s Doo-Wop music with some Blues thrown in for good measure. It is a toe tapping delight.

“Hairspray the Musical” came from the 1988 John Walters movie of the same name. It has 60s style music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. During its Broadway production it won eight Tony Awards with a run of over 2,500 performance. It has since become a favorite of community theater productions

It is June of 1962 and plus sized Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on the popular Corny Collins teen show in Baltimore. Every day after school, Tracy and her best friend Penny rush to Tracy’s home to watch the show. Tracy’s overweight and shy mother complains about the noise while Penny’s mom, Prudy, points out that the show has too much “race music”.

When a cast member from the show has to leave (for nine months) an open audition is announced. Tracy begs her mother to let her try out but fearing that her over weight daughter will be hurt, refuses. Tracy’s father, Wilbur, then steps in and gives his blessing. Wilbur owns the Har-De-Har-Hut that sells joke novelties. His dream is to invent the sofa size whoopee cousin. He tells Tracy to follow her dreams. At the audition, the openly racist producer Velma Von Tussle rejects Tracy for her size as well as Little Inez, a black girl who is also auditioning.

The show is sponsored by Ultra Clutch Hair Spray that all of the cool teen girls use to build their enormous beehive coiffures. It is Tracy’s hair that gets her in trouble at school for “inappropriate hair height” and she is sent to detention. There she meets black dancer Seaweed J. Stubbs who is the son of Motormouth Maybelle who hosts a once a month “Negro Day” on the Corny Collins Show. Seaweed teaches Tracy some new dance moves and at the next school sock hop (hosted by Collins) she is noticed by Corny and invited to join the show. At Tracy’s first show, Corny suggests that Link Larkin (the show’s heart throb) sing a song to Tracy. This sets off Amber Von Tussle (Velma’s daughter) who was a lock on Link’s affection. Link sings and falls for Tracy as Penny is introduced and falls for Seaweed.

Seeing her daughter's chances of winning “Miss Hair Spray 1962” threatened, Velma plots for revenge. Meanwhile at the Turnblad house Edna is fending phone calls praising Tracy for being on the show. Mr. Pinky (who owns a plus size dress show) calls for an endorsement. Tracy comes home and convinces her mother to go with her to the shop where Edna gets a huge makeover and Tracy agrees to be the face of the shop.

Back at school a game of killer dodge ball develops with Amber knocking Tracy unconscious. Link rushes to her side as Penny and Seaweed go for the school nurse (who is out sick). Amber leaves in a huff. To help Tracy get over her injury, Seaweed invites both girls and Link to his mother record shop for a platter party. At the shop, Tracy learns about the prejudice that her new friends have had to deal with for generations. A protest against the TV station is organized with Tracy, Penny, Edna and Wilbur taking part. Link refuses because of his contract with the show. During the protest, Velma calls the police. A fight breaks out and nearly everyone is arrested.

As for the cast, let’s start at the top. Greg Kalafatas as Edna Turnblad steals the show. All eyes are on him/her as he/she sings, dances, struts and shimmies across the stage. His/Her duet with Ralph Prentice Daniel as Wilbur (who also delights) is priceless. Caroline Eiseman as Tracy is a bundle of joy and energy setting the tone with the first song. Caroline Portner as Amber Von Tussle plays the perfectly not too bright and bad dancing blonde to the hilt. Sarah Hayes is only missing a coat of Dalmatian pelts to complete her meanness ensemble. She is the actor you love to hate. Josiah Rogers as Seaweed J. Stubbs is an unbelievable dancer with amazing moves. Scarlett Jacques slowly reveals her inner cool and beauty as the show goes on with the final fashion surprise at the end. Her scenes with Seaweed are precious. Andrew Scoggin as Cory Collins plays the role large and with tremendous flair. Skyler Shields as Link Larkin is believable as Tracy’s new beau and has great looks and a fine voice besides. Lastly, Deidre Lang gets to shine in two outstanding numbers as Motormouth Maybelle that stops the show.

The set design by David Rockwell works perfectly with it’s off kilter look. The costumes by William Ivey Long are era appropriate and fashionable. Paul Miller handles the lighting with sparkling brightness and the sound design by Shannon Slaton while crisp could have been turned down from 12 to 9. Harold Wheeler does the orchestration with Lizzie Webb conduction the mighty seven piece orchestra.

There are scant five shows left on this way too brief tour stop at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio so order your tickets quickly as this show will quickly sell out. This production combines the best of heart and soul with a strong back beat and a huge cast in size and talent. You will hear the bells!

The Huntington Bank Featured Performance of “Hairspray” will be on stage inn the Connor Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio through December 10, 2023.For tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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