Ensemble on-stage for the final number ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat.’ (Donald Emerson photo)

REVIEW: Bard to Broadway’s ‘Hairspray’ captivates from start to finish

Strong musical numbers deliver to a packed audience in Qualicum Beach

The Village Theatre was alive and buzzing with energy on Monday night as the cast of Bard to Broadway’s Hairspray delivered hit after hit to a sold-out audience.

Hairspray brings together a cast of talented vocalists from across the mid-Island whose voices carry easily throughout the theatre. One of musical theatre’s most enjoyable aspects are the soaring multi-part harmonies of the ensemble, and this production is no exception. All performers are consistently on-point, with quirky characterizations showing through even the most minor characters.

The script wastes no time, starting off with the catchy and uplifting opening song ‘Good Morning Baltimore.’ Strong vocals engage throughout the show, which ends with bring-the-house-down number ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat.’

Hairspray is a demanding musical, with more than two hours of nearly non-stop song and dance. The intimacy of the Village Theatre puts the audience very close to the performers, which can be unforgiving. However, the cast carries it off with style and grace.

Jocelyn Dickson and Chelsea Keene’s lively dynamic as best friend duo Tracy Turnblad and Penny Pingleton leave no doubt that the two have a solid background in theatre. Dickson’s voice is consistently strong, clean and powerful throughout the production, and her earnest portrayal of heroine and star of the show Turnblad is authentic and engaging. Keene’s gum-chewing, unabashedly nerdy characterization of Tracy’s loyal best friend was a personal highlight.

Rob Atkinson and Daniel Bailey as Tracy’s parents Edna and Wilbur had the audience in stitches during ‘You’re Timeless to Me.’ The hilarity of Edna in drag did not disappoint. Atkinson carries it off with grace, and Bailey’s handiness with his wife-in-drag pushes the comedy envelope just far enough to still be on the tasteful side of funny. A review of this play would also be amiss if it failed to mention the spectacularity of Atkinson’s massive padded backside, which is practically a character unto itself.

Other character highlights: Omabuwa Edward-Dede’s incredible dance skills and body language as Seaweed Stubbs, Hayden Ledingham’s slick TV personality Corny Collins, and Bethany Freed’s delightfully bratty portrayal of spoiled-girl Amber Van Tussle. Choreography was also well-executed and the use of different levels of the stage lend a richness to the small theatre.

Costuming was consistently on-point and entertaining, with special mention going out to the wardrobe of villainess Velma Van Tussle. Fans of 1960s fashion will not be disappointed with this largely handmade array of spot-on period costuming.

Interested folks can head to www.b2btheatre.com to purchase tickets and check out the performance schedule. Hairspray runs until Aug. 17.

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Beehives and flipped bobs are everywhere you look in Bard to Broadway’s ‘Hairspray’. (Donald Emerson photo)

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