Andy Toth and cast

Last night, I attended the opening of Hairspray at Granville Street’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

A lot of excitement was wrapped up around Canucks playoff game #2, but once this cheerful musical got underway, all attention was on the wonderful stage sets and colourful characters made famous by John Waters’ 1988 cult classic film of the same name. The play’s had a successful run on Broadway with over 2,500 performances, and has won eight Tony Awards.

Andy Toth and Laurie Murdoch
[Andy Toth and Laurie Murdoch; photo by David Cooper]

I found the choreography top notch. The dance numbers were entertaining and flowed well throughout the two hour performance. Andy Toth (replacing Jay Brazeau’s Edna Turnblad due to Brazeau’s recent stroke) provides a perfectly sarcastic, campy mom to main character Tracy Turnblad. Jennie Neumann does a terrific job of bringing Tracy to the stage.

Andy Toth and Jennie Neumann
[Andy Toth and Jennie Neumann; photo by David Cooper]

If you’re not familiar with the story, Hairspray is a peek at 60’s Baltimore, highlighting a TV teen variety show, racial tension, and beehives. Tracy is a lively, fun-loving plump teenager. She’s got a huge crush on teen heartthrob Link Larkin, but blonde bombshell Amber von Tussle has gotten there first, with her tiny figure and even tinier personality. Dancing on the Corny Collins show would make Tracy’s life complete, but how will she win over the judges during her audition, especially with the group rallying around Amber’s equally blonde, annoying mother Velma?

Andy Toth, Jennie Neumann, cast
[Andy Toth, Jennie Neumann, and cast; photo by David Cooper]

What unfolds is a bubbly, comedic look at how Tracy gets accepted onto the show, gains acceptance, and uses her newly-found popularity to get the show racially integrated.

The small stage is cleverly utilized with pull-down backdrops, moveable furniture/compact modular rooms, desks and props taken right out of the 60’s. The rear of the stage even accommodates a live band for the Corny Collins Show.

Jennie Neumann, Matt Palmer and cast
[Jennie Neumann, Matt Palmer and cast; photo by Emily Cooper]

Next to Andy Toth and Jennie Neumann, Alana Hibbert’s role as Motormouth Maybelle is a standout. Her voice is incredible, deserving of the standing ovation that she received at the show’s end. In fact, the entire cast is tight and works very well together. Occasionally, I had to strain to hear the dialogue and songs, and missed a few words here and there. I don’t know whether sitting further back would have helped the situation, but otherwise, wow! It’s a seriously fun play, not to be missed.

Hairspray cast
[Hairspray cast; photo by Emily Cooper]

Hairspray continues at the Stanley Alliance through July 10.


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