Over the past decade or so, Steve Huntsman has worked his way into becoming one of our best local musical theater directors. Signature Productions’ "Hairspray" is rich in all the things he does best: production numbers that come at you fast and seamlessly, exaggerated comedy rooted in reality, and nonstop zest that sends you home feeling life is good.
This pastiche of 1962 Baltimore hip tunes deals, on the surface, with racial prejudice. But at heart it’s a paean to self-acceptance.
A heavy-set white girl auditions to win a spot on a local TV variety show. She’s ridiculed until she attracts the attention of the local heartthrob. More importantly, the kid can dance. When she learns to really like herself, her euphoria wins over her unhappy, rotund mother (played by a man) who decides it’s time she welcomed the ’60s into her life. By evening’s end, even the "villains" are singing about the optimistic beat that can’t be stopped.
Choreographer Rommel Pacson keeps the numbers playful and precise. You’re always scanning the stage to see who’s doing what where.
Jessica Crilley brings just the right balance of tongue-in-cheek cheese and pathos to the role of the heavy-set girl. When she dances, you understand why her show-biz personality would win over her detractors.
It’s hard to picture a more deliciously egocentric egghead than Kelly Ward as Velma Von Tussle, a former pageant winner who will stop at nothing to see her daughter get ahead.
And Nakaze Harris, as a down-to-earth record store owner, proves she can shake the house with a soulful ballad as easily as with an overpowering nonsense song.
Some of the cast members are obviously older than the roles they’re playing, but somehow they project the bounce of youth. Keith Dotson, as a love-struck teen, has played a variety of roles, but he has never seemed so hormone-ravaged and adolescent.
So many others worth mentioning, but so little space!
Let’s just say Huntsman has guided a first-rate cast into first-rate performances. He makes you understand why the optimistic beat should never be stopped.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
When: 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays-Saturdays (through April 28); 2 p.m. April 14 and 21
Where: Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center, 1771 Inner Circle Drive
Tickets: $15-$25 (878-7529; signature productions.net)