IF YOU GO
What: Musical about the adventures of Tracy Turnblad, a plump teen who dances through 1962 Baltimore
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday & selected matinees through Nov. 20.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; group packages & show-only tickets available
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FORT MYERS — Teens dance, swing and jive to the sounds of the 1960s in Broadway Palm Dinner Theater's new musical "Hairspray," an effervescent, bubblegum confection of a show that preaches love, harmony and great big hair.
"Hairspray," based the 1988 John Waters movie, never met a can of Ultra Clutch hairspray it didn't like. The show follows young Tracy Turnblad through the haze of 1962; Tracy just wants to dance, but she winds up an unlikely civil rights champion. Among her adventures, Tracy manages to integrate the dancing teens of "The Corny Collins Show" and lock lips with Linc Larkin, the dreamiest boy in Baltimore. A 2002 Broadway version ran for six years and won eight Tony awards.
Broadway Palm's production - lacking the obvious star power of a Ricki Lake (the original Tracy), a Divine (the original Edna) or a Marissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway's Tracy) - allows each member of a talented ensemble to shine in ways big and small.
Danielle Arci shimmies into the spotlight as full-bodied heroine Tracy Turnblad. "I Can Hear the Bells" becomes a evocative showstopper (its her best number, by far) in her hands and Arci handles the role's comic demands well. The show's message hasn't changed - "love thy fellow man" - and Arci proves an eager, earnest deliverywoman.
Chuck Caruso dons the 44 Triple EEE bra and striped tent of a house-dress to inhabit the Edna Turnblad role. Famously played by drag queen Divine in the film and a parade of stars on Broadway, Caruso shows off Edna's humanity and style with realism and a sense of dignity that the character demands without turning the show into drag extravaganza. Caruso and Paul Crane (Wilbur Turnblad) bring howls of laughter and one of the biggest rounds of applause of the night with a spectacular "(You're) Timeless to Me" number.
Broadway Palm's "Hairspray" leans toward visual treats over the sonic ones, but one of the night's best moments comes as Nedgra Culp (Motormouth Maybelle), blasts out a roof-raising gospel number, "I Know Where I've Been." Culp breathes life into the soul-baring music and lifts the crowd to its feet in a stirring reminder that the 1960s were a time when African-American were still fighting for their place in society.
Amy Marie McCleary nearly steals the show as big-haired, bad-hearted scheming producer Velma Von Tussle; she's loving the part of vamping villainess, although her big number "Miss Baltimore Crabs" doesn't showcase her voice. Elsewhere, Walter Kemp shows off smooth moves as Seaweed J. Stubbs and one of Broadway Palm's most reliable talents, Scott Moreau, pops up as Corny Collins with deadpan comic timing.
Director Brian Enzman and choreographer McCleary keep the show moving at a snappy pace, yet retain the heartfelt moments that helped the John Waters original become an quirky cult classic. Scenes at the Turnblad home ring with an emotional authenticity while dance numbers leap right off the stage. If your toes aren't tapping during "The Nicest Kids in Town," "Run and Tell That" or "Big, Blonde and Beautiful," check your pulse.
Robert Andrew Kovach's sets and John P. White's costumes sing with the groovy, funky spirit of the 1960s. Pink, purple and tangerine pop up again and again - and the towering wigs give a whole new meaning to the term "hair-raising."
There's nothing new here - just fancy dancing, lively music and great big 44 Triple EEE fun.