Pictured from left to right: Erica Glaser as Penny Pingleton, Julie Anne O’Donnell as Wilbur Turnblad, Kelsey Allison at Tracy Turnblad and Christie Joyce as Edna Turnblad.  (Photo by Colin Hovde)

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Bonnie Newton, a student at Oakcrest School , reviews ‘Hairspray’ performed by The Madeira School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Sky high hair, catchy pop music, and big ideas can only mean one thing “Welcome to the 60’s!” The Madeira School’s recent production of “Hairspray” was a blast from the past that had the audience tapping their toes all afternoon.

This feel-good musical tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a girl with big hair and even bigger dreams of dancing on the Corny Collins show. However, once Tracy defies all odds and lands a role on the show, she realizes that there are others who aren’t given their much-deserved time to shine. So, propelled by her new found fame she launches a campaign to integrate the Corny Collins show. This timeless musical is always a crowd favorite with seven years on Broadway, eight Tony awards, several national tours, and the 2007 film starring John Travolta it’s no wonder Hairspray has twisted and shouted its way into our hearts.

Tracy Turnblad, the strong-willed girl with a dream, was masterfully embodied by Kelsey Allison. With a voice bigger than her hair, Allison captivated the theater as she belted out notes from some of the musicals most iconic songs, including “Good Morning Baltimore” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat”. However, she really won the audience’s hearts during “I Can Hear the Bells” her dream-like love song to Link Larkin (Iman Karram). In an all female cast it can be hard to stand out playing a male character, but Karram’s dedication to the role of teenage heartthrob and Elvis wannabe, Link Larkin was enchanting. Her masculine mannerisms were spot on, with every hip swivel, finger snap, and wink, she had the whole audience falling in love with her. Although, perhaps one of the most impressive things about her performance were her superb dancing skills, during “You Can’t Stop the Beat” she won an ovation for her perfectly executed triple turn followed by the splits.  

The exceptional talent could be seen throughout the entire cast. Gabrielle Bullard, who played Seaweed, the suave African American who falls in love with Tracy’s best friend, Penny, was a definite stand out among the cast. She belted “Run and Tell That” with a golden voice--not to mention, her smooth yet precise dancing that wowed the entire audience, and the chemistry between her, and Penny Pingleton (Erica Glaser) was so believable the audience burst into applause whenever they were onstage. Glaser also stood out with perfect inflection and goofy mannerism she had the theater giggling throughout the entire show. Emma Estes, who played Corny Collins, the delightfully cheesy dance show host, was amazing. She embraced the character and through incredible energy breathed new life into every scene she was in. Some actresses had trouble remaining in character and delivering lines effectively, but overall energy increased exponentially throughout the show.

The stage crew team for this show was flawless. Every set piece was quietly moved into the exactly location it was needed with speed and precision. To most crews a show of this scale with set pieces such as giant aerosol cans and jail cells reminiscent of artwork by Piet Mondrian, would be considered a nightmare. However, this crew overcame these challenges with the skill of experts and should be greatly commended for the tremendous accomplishment.

An iconic show like Hairspray can be a real challenge to produce -- especially with an all female cast. But “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and you definitely can’t stop The Madeira School from putting on a delightful performance.