- By Hap Erstein Special to The Palm Beach Post
“You Can’t Stop the Beat” is the hard-driving pop rock imperative that concludes two-and-a-half hours of high energy perpetual motion in “Hairspray.” The raucous and puckish show is currently at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, where the company proves once again that it too is virtually unstoppable, particularly with major, mirthful musicals.
From the opening curtain’s television console that gets colorized right before our eyes to the post-show’s confetti air cannon salvo, we – and the eight-time Tony Award-winning adaptation of a PG-rated John Waters flick – are clearly in good hands.
Most of the principal cast and crew are making their Maltz debuts, including director Bill Fennelly, who sets a more realistic tone for the production than is often the case, without losing any of the considerable comedy. Heading the cast are two more Maltz newbies – Mary DiGangi as chubby spark plug Tracy Turnblad, socially conscious even if she is depleting the ozone layer with her aerosol hairspray, and hefty Michael Kostroff, anything but a drag as Tracy’s wary mother, Edna, who learns to accept herself as “big, blonde and beautiful.”
Choreographer David Wanstreet, who demonstrates he knows his way around the twist, frug, swim, watusi and other ’60s gyrations, once performed at the playhouse, but 24 years ago in its dinner theater days.
“Hairspray” is cult filmmaker Waters’ most mainstream movie, set in his blue-collar hometown of Baltimore during the still racially segregated Kennedy-era days. At least “The Corny Collins Show,” the local TV dance program is still lily white, but that might change if Tracy gets her fevered wish to join the on-air ensemble and perhaps integrate it with a few black teens.
As musicals go, such an agenda is pretty radical, even if it has to sneak up on us, delivered in a bubble-gum rock, gag-rich score created by Marc Shaiman and his co-lyricist partner Scott Wittman (the wits behind the songs of television’s late, lamented “Smash”) and a snappy, one-liner-laden script by Tom Meehan (“The Producers”) and Mark O’Donnell.
Other standouts in the cast include rhythm-and-blues-belting Altamiece Carolyn Cooper as Motormouth Maybelle, owner of a record store on the black side of the tracks, and Mia Matthews, a crabby TV producer who was once crowned Miss Baltimore Crabs.
Philip Hoffman underplays nicely as joke shop proprietor Wilbur Turnblad and shines in a Steve-and-Eydie duet with wife Edna, “You’re Timeless to Me.” Zane Phillips is hip-swiveling Elvis-wannabe Link Larkin, Tracy’s heartthrob, and keep an eye on Taylor Quick as Tracy’s meek sidekick, who blossoms during the evening.
Michael Schweikardt’s set is dominated by ever-changing vertical color bands on the backdrop, Kathleen Geldard’s costumes are a period-perfect hoot, particularly the plus-sized wardrobe for Edna and Tracy, and Gerard Kelly has surely worked overtime creating outlandish bouffant and beehive wigs.
From the infectious overture and throughout the show, Helen Gregory’s nine-piece band is smoking hot, as is the entire show. From teased locks to comb out, the Maltz’s “Hairspray” is a complete blowout.