Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd / Editor: Jillian Ball

All You Need is Music… and a LOT of Hairspray!

Phoebe Butts and the cast of Hairspray at Sooner Theatre. Photo credit Wendy Mutz Photography.

Hairspray is presented by Sooner Theatre and directed by Jennifer Teel. Music direction is by Mervin Tay. Hairspray is a fun little ditty of a show about the 1960s, black and white television ads, aerosol cans of styling products, and bouncy teenager Tracy Turnblad. Tracy is a devoted fan of the local teen dance television program “The Corny Collins Show”. Tracy and her best friend Penny set out to land a spot dancing in the show, and on the way discover a noble quest.

Phoebe Butts is our heroine Tracy, and she’s ideal for the role. Butts is charming and lively, an energetic force of optimism and youthful hope. Jace Appling is a dreamboat as Link Larkin, Tracy’s beau, if only in her mind. Appling is a wonderful partner to Butts, never outshining her but giving her space to standout. The result is that they shine together.

Eric Key is absolutely marvelous as Mrs. Edna Turnblad, a crowd pleaser and fan favorite. Edna is a stay-at-home laundry maven and supportive mother to Tracy. Key possesses the role with all the grace that a tall, stocky guy in a house dress and curlers possibly can. David Mays is Key’s counterpart, Wilbur, Tracy’s father. The size difference between the two is adorable and fitting. Together Mays and Key are a husband and wife team that’s ready to take on the world hand in hand, or head in bosom. Whatever it takes.

Musicals are only as strong as their supporting roles. In this case, the support is solid. Evie Lawson is Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend. Lawson is nerdy and cute, ready to burst out of her gum bubble. Lawson is precious to watch. Her chemistry with Butts is friendly and comfortable. The two seem easily like good friends and they consistently have each other’s backs.

Danielle Flesher Webb as TV producer Velma and Laura Renfro as her impossibly perfect daughter Amber are thick as thieves and thoroughly malicious. Webb is an impressively powerful vocalist and her solo singing moments are divine. Renfro is every bit the girl you love to hate, and her dance and singing talents make her the one to watch for.

Chanda Graham is Motormouth Maybelle, and the show doesn’t truly come to life until she’s on stage. Graham sets the standard for strong vocals, and she owns every scene she’s in. Graham saves the show when the energy starts to dip midway through.

Dancing ensemble in Sooner Theatre’s Hairspray. Photo by Wendy Mutz Photography.

A standout performance is given by Kamilla Quiambao as Little Inez. Quiambao’s role serves as the voice of reason and truth, and she’s got talent to spare. Quiambao is going places, and the world better step back and watch!

Campbell Walker Fields as Seaweed and Mark Ledbetter as Corny Collins make for great allies to the female leads. Fields has a presence on stage and his buoyancy meshes well with Lawson in their scenes together. Comedic timing is the ace up his sleeve, and he catches the crowd off guard with his shocking turns of barely appropriate humor. Ledbetter may seem a bit villainous at first, but proves himself as one of the good guys as the show goes on.

Phoebe Butts (L), Jace Appling (R) and the cast of Hairspray at the Sooner Theatre. Photo by Wendy Mutz Photography.

The numerous dance numbers may partially contribute to the struggle the entire cast seems to have keeping up the energy level. It’s a demanding show, but they fight through together. The choreography is complex and Mackay Adams does an excellent job coordinating the large ensemble dance routines. Likewise, Teel’s direction of the show is smooth and flowy. The cast is in constant motion, a reminder that you simply can’t stop the beat!

The Sooner Theatre’s Production of Hairspray continues October 26-28 in downtown Norman. Performances are at 8 PM the 26th and 27th and 2 PM on October 28th. For tickets, visit soonertheatre.org or call the box office at 405-321-9600. The interior of The Sooner Theatre, located at 101 E. Main Street in Norman, is stunning and lends itself beautifully to this musical.

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