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If we must add a critical comment, here goes: What a shame that everyone must wait another year until the next youth musical from the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Friday’s opening of Hairspray was the feel-good event of the season at MPAC. The performances were first-rate–who can believe the oldest cast members were just 21?–with lots of laughs, memorable tunes, and themes that found a wildly receptive audience in Morristown.
“The real reason I wanted to do it, between all the clever layers, is the fabulous message of tolerance and acceptance and love, and accepting people for whoever they are, regardless of size, or skin color or sexual orientation,” director Cathy Roy told MorristownGreen.com earlier this week.
Last year’s inaugural production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a glittering spectacle; good luck topping Hairspray next year.
What’s really scary is knowing that these kids have three more cracks at improving on a great opening night: Today, May 31, 2014, at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sunday, June 1, at 2 pm, at 100 South St. Tickets are $15; call 973-539-8008.
Amanda Fletcher, 16, of Florham Park, is well cast as the plucky Tracy Turnblad, who challenges traditional notions of beauty, equality and fame in the segregated Baltimore of 1962. Amanda’s energy never wavers and she hits all the right notes.
Some of the best lines come from her Hairspray parents, played with plus-sized panache by Julian Baro (Edna) and Joey Walsh (Wilbur).
The forbidden romance between Tracy’s mousey best friend Penny and the super-cool Seaweed also delivers some highlight moments, courtesy of Carissa Gaughran of Bridgewater, and Darius Jordan Lee, a drama student at Montclair State University with some slick dance moves.
Evan Krug is appropriately Corny as dance show host Corny Collins, but the show-stopping number belongs to Taylor Pickett Stokes, a.k.a. Motormouth Maybelle, who belted out Big, Blonde and Beautiful to raucous applause on Friday.
Every story needs icky villains, and Hairspray has them in the mother-daughter tandem of Velma and Amber, bigoted sexpots played with delicious vigor by Maggie Spector-Williams and Bonnie Zwigard. In real life, the “mom” is a freshman at Nutley High School and her “daughter” is a junior at Hanover Park High School.
The villainous turns are firsts for both young actresses.
“I’m a little snippy in real life,” Maggie said with a laugh during rehearsals.
Bonnie, who torments Amanda Fletcher in the show but is her friend and classmate off-stage, said she usually plays nice girls, like Maria in a school production of The Sound of Music.
Some pros deserve kudos: Music director Darius Frowner and his orchestra, set designer Heather Ball, and especially, Roxy Zeek, for assembling nearly 200 costumes for a cast of 85. And then there is the care and feeding of all those wigs… 30 of them, at last count.
Others to watch: Little Lauralie Mufute of Jersey City steals a couple of scenes as Lil Inez, Seaweed’s wise-cracking kid sister.
And 14-year-old Will Davila of Harding shows poise and a silky-smooth voice as teen heartthrob Link Larkin. Will aspires to a songwriting career.
“There’s a feeling music gives me, and I want to give it to other people,” he said earlier this week. “It’s a weird feeling in your stomach, that makes you feel better about yourself, and you want to go out and make others feel the same way.”
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