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Winthrop can’t stop the beat in spring musical

Main characters, Link, Tracy Turnblad, Penny and Seaweed, stand as friends and couples. Photo courtesy of the Theatre Department

Main characters, Link, Tracy Turnblad, Penny and Seaweed, stand as friends and couples. Photo courtesy of the Theatre Department

Winthrop’s Theatre and music department pulled off a spectacular rendition of “Hairspray” last Wednesday. The Johnson Theatre was almost at full capacity by the start of the show, with only a few seats remaining to sell in the upstairs level.

The audience anxiously waited in the lobby, clearly excited for the experience that lay ahead of them.

“I’ve never been let down by a Winthrop production, so I have high expectations. I expect brilliant dancing and great singing,” said Hollie Sierra, a senior middle level education major.

Sierra said she was excited to watch Winthrop put on such a great and well-known musical.

“It’s ‘Hairspray!’” Sierra said. “I’m excited about that and the fact that it’s my last cultural event.”

Ashley McNamee, a 2010 Winthrop alumni, was attending the show with Sierra for a girl’s night out and also said her expectations were high. She said she has never known the director, Stephen Gundersheim, to put on a bad show.

“Hopefully I get to see a lot of energy and pizazz,” said Bryan Mobley, a freshman psychology major. “I want to get a good feeling (it’s Hairspray!) and a real, authentic feel of the 60s.”

Tracy, Link, Penny and Seaweed hang out at school. Photo courtesy of Winthrop Theatre Department

Tracy, Link, Penny and Seaweed hang out at school.
Photo courtesy of Winthrop Theatre Department

“Hairspray” is filled with songs varying from 60s-style dance music to the blues. The play takes place in 1962 in Baltimore, Md. Tracy Turnblad, the main character, is a plump teenager who dreams of dancing on the popular local TV dance show, The Corny Collins Show. Against the odds, Tracy wins a spot and becomes an instant celebrity.

Tracy does not stop there,  she attempts to integrate the show.  “Hairspray” looks at the social hardships of being overweight and also being an African-American in the 1960s in America.

The show opens with Tracy singing the catchy tune, “Good Morning Baltimore,” and the songs never miss a beat after that. With other songs like “The Nicest Kids in Town,” “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” the music had the audience tapping their feet throughout the show.

The performers were hitting all the notes and dancing right on beat. If you see the show, you will want the sound track. I could not get the tunes out of my head for days, not that I minded.

I was really impressed by the quality of the singing of the performers. The only complaint I have is Seaweed’s sister’s voice threw me off. I’m not sure she should have had a solo singing part. Other than that, great singing all around, with a special nod to Motormouth Maybelle. I cannot say her acting was the best, but the lady can sing and she captivated the entire audience.

“Motormouth was fantastic,’ said Anna Stegall, a freshman sociology major. “She sold the show.”

Sierra said she was brought to tears by Motormouth’s song.

Tracy and Penny swoon over the dreamy Link. Photo courtesy of Winthrop Theatre Department

Tracy and Penny swoon over the dreamy Link.
Photo courtesy of Winthrop Theatre Department

The acting was spectacular. Tracy’s peppy and vulnerable character shined in every scene. The audience could not get enough of the quirky and funny roles of Tracy’s mother (Edna) and father (Wilbur). Corny Collins’ sexual innuendos and blunt comments kept the crowd laughing.

“The mom and dad’s dancing scene together was my favorite part. They were just perfect together. The show wouldn’t have been the same without them,” said Sierra.

The choreography was energetic and exhausting to watch, I mean that in the best way possible. Hats off to the performers for keeping up with the fast-paced songs and scene changes.

“All of the cast had great energy. They were in sync and sounded great. They all had their own personality and really stuck with it throughout the show,” said Mandie Long, a sophomore elementary education major.

The costumes accurately depicted the era, with the teenage girls in dresses, high heel shoes and flipped out hair. The costumes were fun flaunting bright colors, big wigs and a lot of cans of hairspray.

I must add the music department did a fantastic job. All of the music was performed with a live band in the pit of the stage and they sounded great.

“The pit is always amazing,” Sierra said. “This show went beyond my expectations. I’m so happy with everyone’s talent levels.”

The show seemed to more than meet the audience’s expectations. Nearly every member stayed after to greet the cast and share their enjoyment.

Mobley said he has seen “Hairspray” on Broadway in New York and Winthrop’s rendition went beyond his expectations.

“I have to say well done. It was a special performance and a special cast. I enjoyed it the whole way through,” said Mobley.

“Out of the many years of going to shows, this was by far the best,” said McNamee.

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