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Fierstein, Winokur, and Company Fire on all Cylinders

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Not every musical provides a simpatico fit with the Hollywood Bowl, what with the venue’s engulfing vastness, both on the sprawling stage and throughout the seemingly infinite stadium seating. However, the Tony-winning lark, “Hairspray,” inspired by John Waters’ goofy but sweet-spirited 1988 cult film, was conceived and created in such broad strokes that its huge production numbers and cartoonish characters adapt more readily to the hugeness of this performing space than have other popular tuners. In its three-night run at the Bowl, helmed by the show's original director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and headed by two sizzling Tony-winning stars from the Broadway run—Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur—“Hairspray’ made for  a lot of exuberant spirits and rousing musicality. The Friday night opening performance on August 5 elicited more spontaneous singing along and dancing in the seats than a typical rock concert.

One of the most enjoyable Broadway scores of the 21st century to date, attributable to the prodigious skills of songwriting team Marc Shaiman and  Scott Wittman, and the irresistible charms of Mitchell’s showstopping dance numbers and lighthearted direction are all happily evident in this rendition of the blockbuster—an old-fashioned extravaganza with a social conscience, spinning a heartwarming tale of a struggle for racial integration at a teenage TV dance show

Fierstein’s famous voice sounds more like a foghorn all the time, but his star wattage shined brighter than ever. He took charge of his larger-than-life role of  bombastic suburban housewife Edna, causing us to wish that he would reprise the stellar cross-dress role of Zaza in the upcoming national tour of “La Cage Aux Folles,” which he played last season on Broadway. When he crooned the hilarious but quirkily sweet duet “”You’re Timeless to Me” with the comically gifted Drew Carey as Edna’s spouse Wilbur, a couple of encore reprises seemed too few. We wanted this euphoric bout of showmanship to last longer.

 SoCal Stages_blog Winokur was likewise dazzling in her revisit to the role of beleaguered but fearless teenage crusader Tracy. Who cares that she’s now too old for the role? In this enormous venue, it doesn’t matter, and even if she was performing the role in a more intimate facility, her effervescent singing, dancing, and characterization would render any quibbles irrelevant. There were also radiant portrayals by Corbin Bleu as spirited young Seaweed J. Stubbs and Nick Jonas as teen heartthrob Link Larson, both idols eliciting thunderous squeals of delights from young girls in the audience. Darlene Love was perfectly cast as the forceful red-hot-momma Motormouth Maybelle, particularly in her bravura rendition of the stirring civil-rights anthem, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” There was plenty of figurative letting down of hair during this performance, a serendipitous amalgam of marvelous entertainment and spectacular entertainers under the stars.

--Les Spindle
Photo: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

 

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