Monday, May 27, 2024

You Can’t Stop the Fun with San Francisco’s “Hairspray”

So far this year, Bay Area theatre has knocked it out of the park, making me often feel that I am actually on Broadway watching Tony Award caliber productions.

Bay Area Musical’s final production of the season, “Hairspray,” certainly has its work cut out for it.

No need keeping you in suspense, “Hairspray” is vibrant, exciting and as relevant as it was in 1988.

The source material is cult director John Waters’ 1988 film that was actually his first crossover to the mainstream. Seemingly a story of a chubby girl who just wants to dance on TV, but it mixes in a subplot of integration and race relations. Further, to keep the movie edgy and progressive, Walters cast drag superstar Divine in the role of the mother.

This was such a hit, that it later became a Broadway musical, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2002. That lead to a 2007 movie with John Travolta as the mother and a live TV version in 2016.

So with all of these options out there, why would one want to see the BAM’s version? Because it kicks ass!

This production is near perfection from start to finish. From Brooke Jennings costumes to Lynn Grant’s scenic design, this show is colorful, uplifting and likely will be remembered at award time.

Director/Choreographer Matthew McCoy (who also happens to be the theatre company’s artistic director) knocks it out of the park, with perhaps the best choreography I’ve seen on a Bay Area stage. He also sneaks in a few political relevant lines, tying it to modern times while it’s still set in 1962.  None of this can happen without an amazing cast.

Cassie Grilley plays Tracy Turnblad, our bigger than life big girl who has big dreams matched by her big voice. She has so much appeal that she makes you forget all of the Tracys before her.

Scott DiLorenzo as mother Edna also gives a nice performance. Perhaps it’s opening night jitters, but he did stumble with dialog a few times and during the finale number, but always bounces back and adds his own spin on the role, even though he’s had the biggest shoes to fill following Divine, John Travolta and Broadway and TV’s Harvey Fierstein.

Then there’s Dave Abrams. Learn that name and know it. He plays Seaweed, one of the black students working on integrating the dance show. Abrams has everything that makes star quality: great looks, stage presence, good acting, wonderful singing and beyond amazing dancing. He blows us away with his unforgettable, Broadway-level performance.

This show isn’t quite perfect, it could use a little help in lighting up the stage as smoke and shadows pull a bit from focus sometimes. But aside from being knit-picky, “Hairspray” is an uplifting and jubilant production.

“Hairspray” plays the Victoria Theatre through August 11. Get tickets and info at

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Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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