Front (from left), Melissa Momboisse, Cassie Grilley and Lauren Meyer, and back (from left), Bonnie Lafer, Scott Di Lorenzo and Sarah Sloan appear in Bay Area Musicals’ lively production of “Hairspray.” (Courtesy Ben Krantz Studio)

Bay Area Musicals stages buoyant ‘Hairspray’

Show has catchy tunes, fun dancing, social statement

Bay Area Musicals is closing its fourth season with a rousing, even timely, version of “Hairspray,” the 1960s-set Baltimore show about a plump teen who changes the world with her dancing.

Troupe founder and artistic director Matthew McCoy directs and choreographs the fun show, which opened to an adoring audience over the weekend at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre.

The Tony-winning musical (music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, based on John Waters’ 1988 film and adapted again into a 2007 movie) centers on vivacious Tracy Turnblad (a full-voiced, bouncy Cassie Grilley).

The plump girl’s dreams come true when, against all odds, she earns a spot on the Corny Collins’ teen dance show and gets together with her hunky idol, Link Larkin (suave Kamren Mahaney), but is foiled in her attempts to integrate the show and make “Negro Day” be every day.

Her scenes with Seaweed Stubbs, the black guy who introduces her to R&B and teaches her sexy, soulful dance moves in detention hall, are solid gold. On opening night, Dave Abrams as Seaweed literally stopped the show.

But the rest of the cast goes gangbusters with the always tuneful pop score, played by a great six-piece band led by Jon Gallo on keyboard. There’s not a bad performer in the bunch: Scott Taylor-Cole as TV host Corny Collins, Melissa Momboisse and Bonnie Lafter and Penny and Prudy Pingleton, Tracy’s pal and her mean mom; Lauren Mayer and Sarah Sloan as Amber and Velma Von Tussle, Tracy’s beauty queen adversaries, belter Elizabeth Jones as record shop owner Motormouth Maybelle, mom of Seaweed and Little Inez, played by a perky Kennedy Williams.

As Tracy’s parents, full-figured Edna, and magic shop owner Wilbur, Scott DiLorenzo in drag and Paul Plain are sweet, funny and empathetic.

Despite some harsh sound on opening night, rendering some the funny dialog and lyrics indistinguishable at times, Bay Area Musical’s “Hairspray” is a treat from start to finish, for the eyes as well as ears.

With glittering, period-perfect costumes by Brooke Jennings and essential, perfectly teased wigs by Jackie Dennis, it’s definitely a hair “do.”

And while having fun, its statement about the need to improve race relations remains powerful, particularly in America’s current strained political environment.



Presented by Bay Area Musicals

Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Aug. 11

Tickets: $35 to $65


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