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Review: ‘Hairspray’ Perfectly Coifed at Arvada Center

Hairspray, Arvada Center, Denver, Theatre, TheaterHairspray is one of just a few pieces to start as a movie (1988, starring Ricki Lake), be adapted into a musical (winning eight Tony awards in 2002) and then be transformed yet again into a movie (in 2007). This delightful 1960’s period piece achieves a delicate balance of fun and substance, and of all its many incarnations have achieved significant success. The story centers around spunky teen Tracy Turnblad, whose chunky figure and liberal ideas about integration are in conflict with her heart-breaking desire to join “the nicest kids in town,” who dance on a local television show. Of course, her infectious spirit prevails as she easily tears down both personal stereotypes and social barriers.

Arvada ‘Sets’ The Mood of the ’60’s

HE SAID: From the moment I walked into the theatre, I was captivated by this show. The first sight is the vibrantly colorful, sparkly, and perfectly nostalgic set designed by Brian Mallgrave. It was fun. It shimmered. It perfectly set the mood for the delightful journey on which we were about to be taken. And from there out, the design elements were fantastic – costumes by Mondo Guerra and Lighting by Gail J. Gober – was they impeccably brought us back to a specific period with their own twist and flavor.

Hairspray, Arvada Center, Denver, TheatreSHE SAID: It’s true that the atmosphere in the theatre was instantly squeal-inducing. The colorful set made a promise of energy that was undoubtedly kept by the cast for the rest of the show. Costumes by Guerra were both artistic and thoughtful, I really appreciated the recurring motifs and selective color coordination.  The entire experience was the very definition of entertaining — energetic, engaging, and downright infectious.

Cast Fills House With Plenty of ‘Volume’

HE SAID: With the world splendidly crafted, director Rod Lansberry populated it with one of the most cohesive casts I have seen in a Denver musical. The chorus sound, cast mostly with Denver locals, was brilliant! For me, one of the best musical moments was during I Know Where I’ve Been, soulfully sung by Gabrielle Goyette as Motormouth Maybelle. As amazing as her solo was, the song did not fully grab me until the chorus members came in with a beautiful gospel sound. The number was so stunning it received a small standing ovation – a rare feat for a mid show song.

Hairspray, Arvada Center, Denver, TheatreSHE SAID: I’ve come to count on the Arvada Center and musical director David Nehls to provide consistently good musical sound, and this was certainly no exception. My favorite vocal performance of the evening came from Megan Kane as Tracy. Luckily for me, I never had to wait long to hear her talents showcased in this incredibly demanding role. In addition to having incredibly admirable vocal chops, I instantly liked her, and then almost as quickly entirely fell in love with her character. The strongest supporting women – Julia Perotta as Penny and Jim J. Bullock as Edna Turnblad – were just as endearing and I began to anticipate the fun and humor in the upcoming scenes whenever they made their way onstage.

You Can’t Stop Their Beat

HE SAID: All of the leads were phenomenal and as much as the talent can be thanked for the success of this show, a lot is also due to the production staff. David Nehls, as you mentioned, has helped get some of the best ensemble sound around. The choreography by Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, for me, was stellar – very clever, appropriate, challenging, and brilliantly executed. And Lansberry’s direction clearly helped bring a cohesion to all of the elements. It’s wonderful when you see everything in a show working together in harmony (pun intended).

Hairspray, Arvada Center, Denver, TheatreSHE SAID: The choreography was definitely very fun. In fact, it was so energetic that at times I started to worry that the singers would get taxed or the costumes would shift, bunch or otherwise fail. But the cast was able to power through, especially for a lengthy finale, which made for an infectious atmosphere, and I was sad to leave the theatre. I think it’s the sort of ending that musicals with mega-mix curtain calls are trying to manufacture, but this one was due to a genuine engagement in the journey of the characters, not just the siren call of a dance beat.

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Arvada Center Presents Sprayed and Polished Product

THEY SAID:  We have been waiting for a musical like this to be produced locally! Everything was spot on. From the moment we walked in the space, the vibrant sets grabbed us and put us in the appropriate mood. The band was flawless, the choreography was peppy, creative, and brilliantly executed. The talent in this show is so deep and runs through each and every last cast member. But most importantly, through the marvelous voices and adorable designs, a wonderful story was told. Start the summer off right and see this show!

theater denver theatre he said she said critiques

For a full plot synopsis and history of Hairspray, see the wikipedia article. Hairspray plays through July 17 at The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.


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4 thoughts on “Review: ‘Hairspray’ Perfectly Coifed at Arvada Center

  1. From the moment you walk in until the moment you walk out you are caught up entirely in 1962. The costumes, lighting, sound, the band, the choreography, and the performers all work in unison to, literally, blow the doors off of the theater during the entire performance. You couldn’t find a better way to spend a summer evening. This show is scheduled to end mid-July (barring an extension) Tickets will go fast! A no miss, no brainer if there ever was one!

    Posted by Mark Arnold | June 28, 2011, 4:08 pm
  2. I see the full mainstage production next week (can’t wait), but my daughter is doing the Hairspray summer teen intensive…I couldn’t be more impressed with the experience she’s getting. And she is loving every minute of it!

    Posted by Nicole | June 29, 2011, 3:29 pm
  3. i went to the play and it was amazing. the best play ive seen so far

    Posted by emma | August 23, 2011, 4:22 pm

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