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'Hairspray' at Beef & Boards

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Motormouth Maybelle (Tarra Conner Jones), center, sings a powerful “I Know Where I’ve Been” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray.
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Edna Turnblad (Daniel Klingler), right, reacts as Tracy Turnblad (Adee David) is excited to receive a phone call from Mr. Pinky of Mr. Pinky’s Heafty Hideaway asking her to be his exclusive spokesgirl and fashion effigy.

Play Review by John J. Guglielmi


It’s 1960 and Rock and Roll is starting to dominate the music scene across the country and particularly in Baltimore, Maryland. Teenagers post themselves in front of their televisions at 4 p.m. to watch the Corny Collins Show. The dance program brings together teens, big hair and the latest rock songs.

This Broadway blockbuster that won eight Tony Awards, “Hairspray” is at Beef and Boards through October 6.

Tracy Turnblad (Adee David) and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Nikki Miller) never miss Cory Collins and know all the latest dances. Even the ‘Stricken Chicken.’ This drives Tracy’s mother, Edna (Daniel Klinger) crazy.

Tracy has a dream to be a dancer on the Corny show and is excited when auditions are announced to replace a girl who is leaving for nine months. Off to the studio Tracy goes with Penny and encounters racist producer Velma Von Tussle (Amy Decker). Velma represents everything the Cory show exemplifies. She is tall, white, attractive and thin. Tracy checks off most of the boxes but she is a little on the stout side. Tracy is rejected along with a black girl named Little Inez (Carlita Victoria).

A chance encounter the next day while in High School detention for her enormous hair, Tracy meets black dancer Seaweed J. Stubbs (Antonio LeRoy King). He is the son of Motormouth Maybelle (Tarra Conner Jones) who hosts “Negro Day” on the Collins show once a month. Seaweed teaches Tracy some new dance moves that they are sure will impress Collins.

She gets her chance when Collins hosts a dance at the Sophomore Hop a few days later and he was so impressed by Tracy’s moves that he puts her on the show.

There she has a chance encounter with the most popular male dancer Link Larkin (Nate Willey). Suddenly Tracy sings “I Can Hear the Bells” as she dreams about her future with Link.

Now that she is a regular, Tracy sets out to topple the reigning princess, Amber Von Tussle (Sarah Daniels), win the affections of Link Larkin and integrate the show.

Hairspray is actually a story about integration wrapped in a terrific musical. The Civil Rights Act was a few years away and segregation was the norm across the country. Tracy knew this was wrong and wanted to change things.

After being knocked out in gym class during a game of dodge-ball, Seaweed invites Tracy to his mother’s record shop on the other side of town for a platter party. Maybelle welcomes Tracy and Penny and explains how things are with “Run and Tell That.”

Tracy and her supports picket the show, are arrested, jailed, released and finally crash the show. The finale is a rousing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” has the audience on their feet and clapping to the music.

Tracy is a joy to watch with her high energy and vocals. Edna Trunblad is the perfect inner city stage mom. Funny, forceful and very protective of her daughter. Good friend Penny is wiry, delightful and the perfect foil to Tracy. When she sings, her voice is like wow. A joy to listen too.

What can one say about Motormouth Maybelle, Tarra Conner Jones? Conner is a force to reckoned with. She blew the audience away with “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Seaweed had the moves and the sound of 60’s Baltimore. And don’t forget boy wonder Link Larkin. The heart-throb of the Cory Collins Show. All the girls want him but Tracy gets him. Play some of those old 45 records and prepare yourself for the dawn of rock and roll.

The 2020 season will be released soon, so go to www.beefandboards.net for the great upcoming shows. For ticket information and reservations call 317-876-0513.