HAIRSPRAY - Theater Review


By Craig Thornton

You could spend about a thousand dollars (transportation, lodging, and expensive tickets) and go to New York City and see a Broadway show this summer, or you could drive to Potsdam and see Hairspray – a show that is just as good as anything you will see on Broadway- for a fraction of the price.

Community Performance Series once again demonstrates their knack for great productions with this fantastic show. Hairspray won eight Tony awards in 2003 and although I never saw the original Broadway production these wins seem completely justified after seeing this production at Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. The show is so well conceived and written all the creators should be applauded. Book writers Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman – who all won Tonys- have assembled a show that is infections, joyous, meaningful, and hugely entertaining without ever being preachy or forced. Kudos need to go the iconic filmmaker John Waters whose film of the same name (1988) inspired the musical.

All of the great construction of the show is pointless of course if the execution isn’t impressive and here the quality of the production matches the quality of the show. Helming this great production for CPS is the very talented Donna Drake. Drake’s direction is inspired without being pretentious, and exciting without being confusing. She has done an amazing job with the huge cast, set changes and big group numbers and small credible moments. This is no small feat. Her great work here is complimented by choreographer Rhonda Miler, whose dance designs seem organically appropriate for the time period (early 1960’s) while also being highly original.

The show is perfectly cast with Leanne Brunn’s optimistic, idealistic Tracy Turnblad leading the way. Effusive and ingratiating, Brunn’s natural charm shines through all she does. Her parents played by Ricky Pope (Edna) and Todd Little (Wilbur) compliment each other. Both give affectionate and warm performances. Jamal Shuriah plays Seaweed and he has charisma to spare and is a phenomenal dancer. Michael Santora gives a credible, charming performance as Corny Collins. The entire cast is superb, but for scene stealing power there is no one more powerful than Altamiece Cooper whose performance as Motormouth Maybelle is sublime. Blessed with a gorgeous singular voice, Cooper sings with complete emotional conviction as she effortlessly belts out some of the shows most iconic numbers: Big Blonde and Beautiful and I know Where I’ve Been. A star is born!

CPS’s production of Hairspray is the best show I have seen in the tri-county area in a long, long time. CLICK HERE NOW for tickets Hairspray plays through Saturday 27th with a two shows on Saturday – a matinee at 2 pm and a closing night performance at 7:30 pm.

Go, Go Now!

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Sheila said on Friday, Jul 26 at 6:17 PM

Broadway holds nothing over this performance! A very strong cast -- loved the comedic talent of Sydney Leigh Allen as Penney!

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carol said on Thursday, Jul 25 at 4:47 PM

Have seen the production 2 nights in a row and was completely wowed both nights. Cudos to the 8 local performers who showed there is a lot of talent in the north country also. Don't miss the great production. The song and dance numbers were spot on for the time frame and the costumes are delightful. Hope to go again before it is over, but don't forget Little Shop of Horros starts in a couple of weeks

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Mike L said on Wednesday, Jul 24 at 11:17 PM

The review was right on! This production was Broadway caliber. Was sad to see it end.

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Laura O said on Wednesday, Jul 24 at 2:07 PM

I also saw this production last night and could not have said it better. The drive from Watertown to Potsdam was worth the truly pinnacle caliber of entertainment I enjoyed at the CPS production of Hairspray. Sets, costumes, lighting, and performers were indeed sublime. Thank you, CPS for a wonderful evening.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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