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THEATER REVIEW: Moonlight's “Hairspray" is terrific

Tracy Turnblad (Kim Zolozabal) just wants to dance.

It’s 1962 – on the eve the big civil rights push in the U.S. – and the pudgy bobby-soxer wants to be on Baltimore’s popular Corny Collins teen dance show.

Mom Edna (Randall Hickman) tries to shield her daughter from the depressing facts of life for plus-sized TV wannabes, but Tracy will not be dissuaded from that audition.

Teenybopper musical “Hairspray” is the story of Tracy’s success, despite the meanness of skinny, blonde classmate Amber Von Tussle (Lauren Smolka) and her vicious mother Velma (Tracy Lore), producer of the show. Tracy even turns the head of Amber’s hunky boyfriend, Link Larkin (Neil Starkenberg), and takes the lead in integrating the TV show.

The source material – John Waters’ 1988 film starring drag queen Divine as Edna – was remade in 2002 as a musical, with a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Moonlight Stage Productions presents a terrific, high-energy production of the musical “Hairspray” through Sept. 3 at Moonlight Amphitheatre.

Director Steven Glaudini marshals this large and talented cast expertly, helped immeasurably by John Vaughan’s clever and challenging choreography and ingenious sets from Musical Theatre West, and William Ivey Long’s great costume designs.

The show features several great adult characters, all wonderfully played.

Proprietors of Vista’s Broadway Theater Randall Hickman and Doug Davis take the stage as Tracy’s shy, overweight mom Edna (Hickman) and skinny joke shop owner dad Wilbur.

Hickman is a hoot as laundress Edna, standing at the ironing board in a baggy ’60s housedress or trying to encourage Tracy without giving her false hope. And Davis, in hilariously awful costumes, provides a great counterpoint. Their soft-shoe “You’re Timeless To Me” duet is the emotional centerpiece of the show.

Lore’s mean-spirited, success-for-Amber-at-any-cost Velma reminds you of all the authority figures you ever hated; David Engel’s Corny Collins is just right; Jeanine Robinson scores big as Motormouth Maybelle, particularly in the poignant song “I Know Where I’ve Been.” And Sandy Campbell is all over the stage, playing three roles and acing them all.

Kudos also to the fine orchestra, ably directed by Elan McMahan.

But it’s the kids who make this upbeat show. The plot has Tracy spending a fair amount of time in detention, where she meets some really fine dancers who are only allowed on Corny’s show once a month on “Negro Day.” One is Seaweed J. Stubbs (Nathan Riley), a terrific dancer who not only teaches Tracy some moves but finds a new friend in Tracy’s sweet but dim best friend Penny (Kristen Lamoureux).

Zolozabal shows a big, well-trained voice in a tiny package, to which Starkenberg provides a fine counterpoint.

Lamoureux is charming and funny as Penny; Smolka excellent as hated prima donna Amber.

The Supremes-like Dynamites (Yvonne, Jessica Mason and Kimberly Moore) in bright red dresses and gloves are fine, and everyone in the cast contributes energy and talent to this toe-tapping wow of a show.

The details

“Hairspray” plays through Sept. 3 at Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.

Wednesday through Sunday at 8 pm.

For tickets call (760) 724-2100 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.