Outstanding vocal performances are the highlight of “Hairspray,” the fun-loving, Tony Award-winning musical presented by Broadway By The Bay in its 47th season, and first in its new home at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City.
The vibrant community theater also is celebrating new Artistic Director Amanda Folena, at the helm of this show and the company after the departure of Brooke Knight, who retired in 2011 after leading the troupe for 18 years.
Friday’s festive opening night boasted a healthy audience filling the historic, 1,200-seat downtown theater, and an energetic cast led by Vicki Morgan as Tracy Turnblad, the hip-shaking, hefty high school girl who, in 1962, wants to change the world by integrating TV’s “Corny Collins” teen dance show.
Morgan has played the role before, and her experience is evident, from the opening strains of “Good Morning Baltimore” to the infectious, irresistible closing number “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
Erica Richardson as Motormouth Maybelle, the matriarchal black record store owner who gets to perform on “Negro Day,” rightly stops the show with her big, soulful numbers. While Cole Grissom as Tracy’s mom, Edna, is fun in the part originated by Harvey Fierstein, the role doesn’t showcase his extensive opera background detailed in the program notes.
Michael Scott Wells is fine as Link, the Elvis wannabe who captures Tracy’s affections, and Chloe Condon, with spot-on comic chops, stands out as Tracy’s best friend Penny.
Musical director Rick Reynolds conducts the truly terrific live orchestra, and choreographer Robyn Tribuzi keeps the energetic chorus moving briskly through the 1960s-era numbers, although the difference between the “white” and “black” dances could be more dramatic and distinctive.
Also, on opening night, a slightly muddy sound system kept audience members in the balcony from hearing each word clearly.
While the bite of the original production (by Mark O’Donnell, Thomas Meehan, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), and the wild John Waters movie on which that was based, seems toned down, Broadway By The Bay’s “Hairspray” nonetheless offers an evening of lively and inspirational entertainment showcasing talented performers working not for financial compensation, but for the love of live theater.
Presented by Broadway By The Bay
Where:Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City
When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes April 22
Tickets: $20 to $48
Contact: (650) 579-5565, www.broadwaybythebay.org