Like the month of June, Edna and Tracy Turnblad seem to be “bustin’ out all over” these days, their smash Broadway hit musical Hairspray making the rounds of Southern California regional theaters to the delight of subscribers and single-ticket buyers alike. Residents of San Diego-adjacent Vista (and anyone lucky enough to be within driving distance of Moonlight Amphitheatre) are the latest to receive a visit from the full-figured mother-daughter team who first took the world of musical theater by storm in their 2003 Broadway debut.

Based on John Waters’ 1988 cult film of the same name, the multiple Tony award-winning musical tells the tale of plus-sized teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a 1962 Baltimore version of American Bandstand. Despite those extra pounds and a then shockingly progressive attitude towards integration, Tracy does indeed make that dream come true, leaving only two more tasks for her to accomplish: a) making “Negro Day” more than a once-a-month Corny Colins Show event and b) winning the heart of local teen heartthrob Link Larkin. Since Hairspray is the quintessential happy-ending musical, there’s little doubt about our pleasingly plump heroine’s success in both endeavors.

Anyone familiar with Waters’ movie or its Broadway/movie musical adaptation (with songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) knows that Tracy is the daughter of a 6’2” woman of ample proportions and a heart of mush named Edna Turnblad, a role originated on film by John Waters muse Divine (an actor of the biologically male persuasion) and on Broadway by the one-and-only Harvey Fierstein. Here the part goes to San Diego/Vista resident Randall Hickman, who puts his own wonderfully distinctive stamp on Edna, a man-sized dame who remains a lady whether dressed in a drab house dress or begowned to the nines. Hickman’s loveable Edna is so real, richly layered (no pun intended), and entirely believable that you may well find yourself referring to her (excuse me, his) superb performance in the feminine.

Director Steven Glaudini brings his very own panache and pizzazz to Vista’s Hairspray, guiding his actors in their finely-tuned takes on now iconic roles, the production’s numerous energetic dance numbers freshly choreographed here by John Vaughan.

Kim Zolozabal is a cute-as-a-button ball-of-fire as Tracy, whether extolling the virtues of her hometown in Hairspray’s bang-up opener “Good Morning Baltimore” or swooning over Link in “I Can Hear The Bells” or insisting to Mama Edna that she’s a “Big Girl Now.” Recent CSUF musical theater grad Neil Starkenberg’s Link is the teen idol any teen would easily fall head over heels for after a glimpse of his headshot or a listen to his infectiously performed “It Takes Two.” Kristen Lamoureaux is geeky perfection in a highly original (and thoroughly adorable) take on Tracy’s racial line-crossing best pal Penny Pingleton.

Hickman’s real-life partner Doug Davis wins hearts with his goofy Wilber Turnblad charm, and needless to say, the affection between this Edna and her man is as real as it gets. The always brilliant Tracy Lore hits yet another bulls-eye as the venemous Velma Von Tussle, with Lauren Smolka a stuck-up delight as chip-off-the-old-bitch Amber Von Tussle. David Engel adds one more notch to his belt as Corny, bringing Broadway/L.A. star charisma to America’s Favorite Eternal Teen.

Jeanine Robinson is dynamite as “Big Blonde And Beautiful” Motormouth Mabel, Nathan Riley a fine and sexy Seaweed J. Stubbs (despite a few vocal gaffes at the performance reviewed), and Shantá Marie a petite firecracker as Little Inez.

Sandy Campbell and Jamie Snyder create a trio of vivid characters each in multi-role tracks as Prison Matron, Gym Teacher, and Penny’s prudish mom Prudy Pingleton, and as Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway owner Mr. Pinky, high school principal Patterson, and Mr. Harriman F. Spritzer, the President of Ultra Clutch Hairspray. (Campbell’s lisping gym teacher is a particular treat.)

Song highlights include Robinson’s powerful “I Know Where I’ve Been” (encapsulating the Civil Rights movement in four breathtaking minutes), Lore’s delectably divalicious “(The Legend Of) Miss Baltimore Crabs,” and Hickman and Davis’ infectiously romantic soft-shoe duet “(You’re) Timeless To Me.”

Completing the cast are fifteen indefatigable young triple-threats, many of whom you’ll be seeing in starring roles very soon. They are Amy Beth Batchelor (Brenda), Kathleen Calvin (Lorraine), Kenji Crockett (Gilbert), Mary Allison Dunsmore (Shelley), Chester Lockhart (IQ), Nick Lorenzini (Fender), Jessica Mason (Dynamite), Cara McMorrow (Lou Ann), Kimberly Moore (Dynamite, Cindy Watkins), Dominique Petit Frere (Duane), Pierre Petit Frere (Thad), Clay Stefanki (Brad, u/s Link), Veronica Stevens (Tammy), Matthew Thurmond (Sketch), and Yvonne (Dynamite).

Musical director Elan McMahan conducts a sensational live fifteen-piece pit orchestra, with Peter Hashagen’s sound design providing an expert mix of vocals and instrumentals. William Ivey Long’s original Broadway costume designs have been coordinated for this production by Roslyn Lehman, Renetta Lloyd, and Carlotta Malone, and topped off by hair-whiz Byron J. Batista’s expert big-hair-and-bigger-wig design. Though no designer is credited for the show’s first-rate sets, lighting designer extraordinaire Jean-Yves Tessier does receive deserved credit for the vibrancy with which he lights them. Stanley D. Cohen is stage manager, Tim Jones assistant stage manager, and Batchelor assistant to choreographer.

As both Hairspray and the current movie hit The Help (also set in 1962) make abundantly clear, it was not all that long ago that the very idea of integration (and interracial relationships) was as unthinkable to a large segment of America as marriage equality is to their ilk in 2011. Hairspray teaches us a history lesson (and a still-needed moral message) in the most entertaining of ways—through song and dance and plenty of love under the moonlit Moonlight Amphitheatre skies.

Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.

–Steven Stanley
August 21, 2011
Photos: Ken Jacques

Comments are closed.