The Drama Club performed three sold out showings last week of the musical comedy Hairspray, presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.
The sidesplitting musical is based on the movie by John Waters, featuring lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, with music by Marc Shaiman. Produced by Bill Averso, it was another high-octane and audaciously riotous performance with charismatic director at the helm.
The impeccable production, with shows from Thursday-Saturday, had the audience breaking out into uproarious laughter from the opening number "Good Morning Baltimore" until the end of the more than two-hour performance. Upbeat, beautifully sung dance numbers, owing thanks to vocal director Nicole Morace, were flawlessly accompanied by the pit orchestra, led by director Michael Carroll.
Assistant director and choreographer, Michael Burke, outdid himself once again. The impressive, varied and vividly colorful sets designed by Jess Clark and Jill Berner, and constructed by Bob Wentzel, helped bring the story to life, as the bold backdrop to extraordinary singing, dancing and acting from the entire, cast who were adorned in fabulous raiment courtesy of costume designers Victoria Pelicano and Ronnie Green.
Songs featured were in the vein of 1960s dance music and rhythm and blues, befitting the story set in 1962 Baltimore, where plump, bouffant-coiffed teen Tracy Turnblad (Dani Mannino) rushes home after school every day, along with her adorably awkward best friend Penny Pingleton (Laura Laureano), to watch The Corny Collins Show on TV. Mannino shined as the plucky and vivacious young woman with outstanding vocal prowess to rival her brio. After an announcement is made that auditions for a spot on the popular dance show are being held, Tracy's hopes of stardom are ignited. Her plus-sized mother Edna, a drag-role played fearlessly and ferociously funny by a scene-stealing Ryan Miller, tries to discourage her, believing that she will be ridiculed due to her weight. However, her droll, but lovable, father Wilbur (Paul Gagliardi) encourages his daughter to follow her dreams.
As Tracy tries out for the show she meets teen singing sensation, Link Larkin (Chris Isolano) and is instantly smitten. She also finds a formidable enemy in Velma Von Tussle, the snooty and racist producer of The Corny Collins Show, played to the hilt by Victoria Isernia, obviously delighting in the chance to portray the over-the-top platinum blonde villainess. Velma's daugher, Amber (Carley Mattheus), is the star of the dance show and is also vying for Link's affections. Velma snubs Tracy and rejects her from being on the show due to her appearance. The former "Miss Baltimore Crabs" also turns away a black girl, Little Inez (Archa Joshi).
The tides begin to turn for Tracy when she is sent to detention, yet again, by the principal (Tyler Giaquinto) for blocking everyone's view with her, "monumental hair don't". There, she meets black dancer, Seaweed J. Stubbs, played with élan by George "Rocky" Carrion. He is the son of the host of The Corny Collins Show's segregated "Negro Day," Motormouth Maybelle (Debbie Santiago). Santiago wowed the audience with her soulful and resonant vocal delivery in the take-no-prisoners number "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" and the moving "I know Where I've Been".
The groundbreaking moves Seaweed imparts to Tracy help her get on the TV show. When Tracy participates in a protest against the show's racial segregation, Velma calls the police and all the girls are sent to "The Big Doll House."
After many twists and turns, the show left the audience with the dynamic dance number, "You Can't Stop the Beat."
Chiaramonte took the time to remind those in attendance of the tremendous amount of dedication required from the entire cast and crew to put on a production of this magnitude.
"It's only two hours you see. We get to see the growth and how your kids work together," said Chiaramonte. He also expressed gratitude to the understanding Board of Education that "lets us be free."
Regina Keller, whose daughter Capri Keller was a senior in the violin section, like many proud parents, came to the show every night.
"You can't believe they're kids. They're so funny, so professional. They work so hard," said Keller.
At its heart, the campy Hairspray is a celebration of self-acceptance, diversity, equality and a call to stand up for what is right, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, as well as a testament to the ultimate triumph of substance over superficiality.
"Be nice to one another, and look passed differences. Be nice; it's not that hard. That's what the show is really about," Chiaramonte told the audience after the performance. "Go home with that."