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Sachem North Puts On a Production of Hairspray

The Sachem North Drama Club presents the musical comedy Hairspray.

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."

john isernia April 05, 2012 at 04:43 PM
i'm still laughing and applauding....congratulations to Jonathan Chiaramonte and his hard working crew ...........Hairspray was a magnificent production....so much talent in one school at the same time....i can't wait till next year.............
john isernia April 05, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Matt Pederson was a perfect Corny Collins............his portrayal of the suave Corny was terrific...........congrats ..................the whole show was perfectly cast ....who will ever forget Paul and Ryans skit .............amazing
Ally Gruber April 05, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Honey, you seriously need to proofread this article. Seriously.
Anonymous April 05, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Wow that Corny Collins was fantastic! Who played him?
Shana Braff April 05, 2012 at 10:03 PM
My apologies for neglecting to mention Matt Pedersen, who was spectacular as the flamboyant Corny Collins! Ally, I'm not sure what you mean? Is there a specific mistake you noticed that needs correction?
Christine Marshall April 06, 2012 at 12:00 AM
The cast, the crew, the pit, Mr. C. and all that were involved in putting this production on the Sachem North stage deserve yet another standing ovation for all their hard work. Such amazing talent......3 shows is just not enough. Can't wait for the next show.
Leighanne Mattheus April 06, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I have to agree with Chrisine..left us wanting more. Great show,Great kids,Great direction and Great choreography.Chiromonte and Burke are an unbelievable team! Can't wait for next year!
Ally Gruber April 15, 2012 at 09:55 AM
I apologize for not seeing your response until now, Shana. My list was too long to fit into one or two comments so I e-mailed it to you. I also wanted to apologize on here publicly for coming off as rude and/or condescending. It wasn't meant that way but sometimes I unintentionally say things that sound negative but I don't mean for them to sound negative. so I apologize and hope that you are able to understand where I am coming from in the e-mail I just sent you. :) Oh, and something that I forgot to add into the e-mail was this: I absolutely adore the second to last paragraph. "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." It's a fantastic sentence and I couldn't have said it better myself.
Shana Braff April 15, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Ally, in response to your e-mail, brio means vigor or vivacity, which you seem to have a lot of as well ; )
Marylin Vallis April 18, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Congratulations to everyone involved in the production of Hairspray. The performance ranks right up there with anything I have seen on Broadway or local theater. Saw the show every night--could have seen it even more nights--it was that good!
Jonathan Chiaramonte April 24, 2012 at 10:02 AM
I would like to thank Shana and the staff of Patch for covering Sachem North and East's productions. It helps bring awareness to our program and hopefully brings in new audience members who, after seeing the articles, may be more inclined to give us a chance! Thank you!
Shana Braff April 25, 2012 at 01:49 AM
You're very welcome Jonathan! Reviewing Sachem's theatrical productions have been among my favorite stories to cover. I am always amazed by the level of professionalism involved in every aspect of each performance, as well as the tremendous amount of support from the community for the arts. Your students are very fortunate to have such a positive role model and mentor that I can tell truly loves what he does!

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