Saturday, October 17, 2015

Carlisle Theatre Company's 'Hairspray' Heats Up a Chilly Fall Day

Outside the Carlisle Theatre, the leaves on the trees are changing colors, people are carrying around pumpkin-spiced food and drinks, and the air is cooling off. But inside the theatre, things are heating up with the bright colors of the 60s, and dancing that's just as vibrant, in Carlisle Theatre Company's production of Hairspray.

Plump teenager Tracy Turnblad has big hair and even bigger dreams, and she doesn't let her size, her detention, or even her own mother stand in her way of auditioning for the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to dance on the Corny Collins Show. When she surprisingly ends up on the show, she sets her sights even higher as she aims to integrate blacks into the show on a regular basis instead of just on "Negro Day," which is only one day a month. While Hairspray is a fun and upbeat show from beginning to end, it also successfully manages to present the more serious issue of racism in the 1960s, making the colors of black and white just as much a part of the show as the bright colors.

Through her journey on the Corny Collins Show, Tracy (played by Aimeebeth Davis) connects with various characters, including teen heartthrob Link Larkin (played by Greg Athanasatos); lovable dancer Seaweed J. Stubbs (played by Jeremy Patterson), his little sister Little Inez (played by Annalise Prentiss), and his soulful mother, Motormouth Maybelle (played by Gabrielle Dixon), who is the host of Negro Day on the Corny Collins Show; and lying, cheating, scheming, fame-obsessed mother/daughter team Velma and Amber Von Tussle (played by Lindsay Bretz and Hillary Miller). Tracy's best friend Penny (played by Carly Lafferty) is there to support her every step of the way, and Tracy's mother Edna (played by Ryan Boyles), while initially against her daughter auditioning, quickly becomes one of her biggest supporters.

Dixon's passionate performance was one to note, as she had her own cheering section with a handful of people who gave standing ovations after each of her songs. Boyles also had a memorable performance, perfectly executing his role while sporting nightgowns, dresses, heels, and even a red feather boa. And the smooth dancing skills of Patterson are worth a mention as well.

The score (by Marc Shaiman) features plenty of catchy tunes, from the opening "Good Morning Baltimore" to the closing "You Can't Stop the Beat," and the 36-member cast wastes no time showcasing top-notch dancing and choreography. While the voices in the show are good, the energetic dancing takes center stage. That the talented cast manages to sing while enthusiastically executing the non-stop dancing is a big part of what makes this show so spectacular. The 10-member orchestra has no trouble pumping out the fast-paced music, which only enhances the energy of the performance. And the costumes, sets, and lighting provide plenty of bright color to round out the production.

Carlisle Theatre Company's Hairspray is a fun, upbeat, and impressive production that heats up a chilly fall day better than any pumpkin-spiced latte ever could. Audiences of any age can enjoy this family-friendly performance filled with quality music, dancing, humor, and yes, hairspray. 

Hairspray runs at Carlisle Theatre through October 18. For additional details and ticket information, please visit

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