Alhambra Hairspray Lee Hamby as Edna

Alhambra’s Hot-Hot-Hot Hairspray

North Florida weather is warming up as spring approaches, but if you really want really hot, hot, hot, then plan on seeing Hairspray, the latest Alhambra production that opened last weekend.

The Broadway musical Hairspray was inspired by the 1988 film by director John Waters, and opened on Broadway in 2002. It was hot from the start, at 99% capacity for the first year and 86% for the second. Hairspray was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won 8, including Best Musical, which propelled the production to a six-year run and 2,642 performances. The Alhambra’s production will run through April 3, so make your reservations early as it is the hottest ticket in town.

For readers who are not familiar with the movie or the show, the story is the compelling tale of the Turnblad family, and is set in Baltimore. Tracy is a pleasantly plump teenager who has big hair, a big voice and big dreams. She wants to earn a place on the Corny Collins Television Teen Dance Show (with Todd Michael Cook as the affable host), win the love of teen idol Link Larkin (Nick Hovespian), and win the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray of 1962. Tracy also wants to end segregation on the show, where guest appearances by black dancers are limited to one show each month. The story was based on events related to Baltimore’s real-life “Buddy Deane Show,” which aired from 1957-1964. Tracy is wonderfully played by Alhambra newcomer, Rebecca Santiago, who is picture perfect for the role.

Lee Hamby is Edna, Tracy’s kind but tough-talking plus-sized mother, in a role that is always played in drag. Divine played it in the movie, Hamby is even more hilarious, and sings divinely. Edna’s husband Wilbur features Alhambra legend Tony Triano, as a father who encourages Tracy by telling her “You have to think big to be big.” Hamby and Triano do a charming soft-shoe number in Act II entitled “You’re Timeless To Me.”

Director/Producer Tod Booth has assembled one of the largest casts ever on the Alhambra stage. The cast of twenty-one is solid from top to bottom and can best be described by the word exceptional: exceptional voices, exceptional dancing.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.