Friday's opening night audience enjoyed the Playhouse Merced production of "Hairspray" - perhaps a little too much. The promise of community favorite Jim Kocher in drag and of soulful tunes to show off fantastic vocal talents were more than enough to match the audience energy with that of the cast. And the ensemble did prove itself with consistent, strong harmonies in an exciting and colorful show.
"Hairspray" follows Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized girl with a plus-sized heart. Although her hair-do is too large for some to handle, others, like TV personality Corny Collins, welcome her confident attitude and bold dance moves. Right in the middle of America's segregation wars, Tracy pulls together black, white and friends of all colors for a relevant and hopeful finale. Hollywood turned the Broadway musical into a film in 2007, and viewers will see the show again next winter when NBC performs a live television version. In the mean time, audiences can catch a fabulous, "big and beautiful" production in Merced.
The creative team out(hair)do themselves with technicolor lights, bright costumes and rotating set pieces that bring the upbeat 60s-style to life. Katy Ueno's cheerful and vibrant Tracy leads the company, from her first eager smile in "Good Morning Baltimore" to the lively finale, "You Can't Stop the Beat." Jim Kocher chooses not to overplay his role as Tracy's mother. His Edna is a laidback, insecure and relatable woman, which makes the character's hesitant transformation all the more enjoyable.
Kocher's wife, Dianne, lends her flawless voice to "Corny Collins" manager Velma Von Tussle. Tussle aims to make her daughter (Madison Mitchell) famous and steer the youth of Baltimore in the "white" direction. Tracy, however, has other plans with the help of Motormouth Mabelle and Seaweed Stubbs. Elena Carter and GB Blackmon III are at their best in entertaining and poignant songs like "Run and Tell That" and "I Know Where I've Been."
Other highlights include a memorable Austin Worden as Wilbur Turnblad, a refreshing Baylor Browning (with a killer voice) as Tracy's crush Link Larkin, and a dedicated Rachel Pearre as Tracy's hilarious and awkward best friend Penny Pingleton. The one fault of Merced's "Hairspray" is a poor sound system and lack of enunciation that made it difficult to understand much of the dialogue opening night. But this did little to detract from the overall stamina and fun of the show. Tidy up the sound and Merced Playhouse will have a near-perfect musical.
Through Feb 21
Photo by Shawn Overton
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From This Author Harmony Wheeler
"Run and Tell That" is a song in the musical Hairspray, performed by the African-American character Seaweed.
The phrase "Run And Tell That" is traced back to African American religious and secular songs. Literally, it means: "to exhort someone to go quickly and give information or news to another person or persons", however in this context it is more like "declaring to your adversary you will succeed in the near future, and that he or she should let the world world know that fact". This is Seaweed's only solo song.
The song has Seaweed singing about black pride, and the realities associated with being marginalized by a white society.
About.com analyses the song:
"The character Seaweed isn't simply the cool black kid who makes Penny swoon. His character embodies a generational shift towards integration. Seaweed and the other young black characters are marginalized at their school. They are constantly and unjustly sent to detention. Authority figures such as teachers, parents, and television producers demean the black characters, openly advocating racial segregation. Seaweed begins the song, unable to understand why certain people are so prejudice. Despite the opposition, Seaweed is confident that his character will win over others. The playfully seductive lyrics, such as "The darker the chocolate, the richer the taste," are more than just flirtatious banter. This by the way is not the first connection between multiculturalism and food. The song "Big Blond and Beautiful" features lyrics with a similar message. The message seems to be that diversity benefits society the same way a multitude of flavors can enhance a meal. Seaweed's sister, Little Inez, was shunned during the Corny Collins dance auditions. In the song "Run and Tell That," she exudes both confidence and frustration. Like other activists who wait for civic justice, Little Inez can no longer maintain her patience."
Kristi Music Lover wrote:
“Run and Tell That” has memorable melody. This song starts with a dialogue. The backs up voices use a Call and Response during the chorus A few phrases repeat throughout the song. They include, “Run and Tell That,” and “I Can’t See.” It also has rhythmic motives, repeated patterns in music.
CinemaBlend said it was "show-stopping" and "eye-popping in its energy". DemonMedia described it as a "soulful number". Reviewing the 2007 film version, FilmJournal wrote Elijah Kelley "simply sizzles in his featured number". Slate wrote it was a "group dance number".