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Theater Critic and Times Argus Arts Editor Jim Lowe Reviews LNT's Hairspray.

April 26, 2016
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News | Central Vermont

Theater Review: Fighting bigotry with song and dance


April 24,2016
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??By Jim Lowe ??Staff Report
(all photos on this page courtesy of Jim Lowe)??

With all the effervescent energy in Lost Nation Theater’s spectacular production of of the frothy ‘60s musical “Hairspray,” audience members might be forgiven for missing the message at its heart. But they won’t.??

endi of "cooties"

Montpelier’s professional theater company opened a joyful production of the 2002 Broadway Tony-winning musical Friday at City Hall Arts Center that was consistently well performed throughout.

Based on the 1988 John Waters film, the music is by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.

??“Hairspray” is set in 1962 Baltimore, where plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire, to dance on the popular “Corny Collins Show.” Against all odds — and the show’s haughty producer and her spoiled daughter — Tracy gets a place on the show.??

But that’s not enough for Tracy. The show has one “Negro Day” a month, but everyone should be dancing with everyone every day. And Tracy is off on her crusade for a better tomorrow.??

Fortunately, Lost Nation’s production doesn’t let “meaningful” — though it’s good for a tear or two — get in the way of a rollicking good time.??

Most importantly, the production is consistent and cohesive, thanks to stage direction by Kathleen Keenan. But what set the stage was the inspired choreography by Taryn Noelle, who taught most of the young dancers, and the expert music direction (Nick Bombicino). And the intimacy of City Hall Arts Center adds a feeling of real immediacy.

photo by jim lowe

??Lauren DePuy sang and danced her way with verve as Tracy, and was most sympathetic in the darker moments. She was matched by Pat Larkin as her crush Link Larkin, who was delicious as the single-minded crooner wannabe.

??Still, Tracy’s parents were the funniest and most endearing couple. As Edna and Wilbur, Shawn Sturdevant (in drag) and Bill Pelton were simply priceless.??

wilbur & edna

Corny Collins was given ‘60s effervescence and real authenticity by G. Richard Ames. His African-American counterpart, Motormouth Maybelle, was made real by Monique Scott.

??The other priceless couple, the interracial wallflowers in love, Seaweed and Penny, were played with total charm by Leon Evans and Libby Belitsos. Just as fun were the “bad guys,” Velma von Tussle and her demanding daughter Amber, who were played deliciously by Noelle and Hannah Brown.??

Still, this is an ensemble piece dependent upon the whole. And this is where, despite momentary imprecision in the movement and miking inconsistencies, the production was strongest. It was cohesive and thus most entertaining.??

Wally Eastland was responsible for the ambiguous but attractive set that morphed with the need, as well as dramatically lighting it. Cora Fauser and Sally DiCicco created the delightful period costumes.

??Lost Nation Theater’s first attempt at a big song-and-dance musical has to be called a success. “Hairspray” was spectacular and great fun.

the cast and some of the crew for LNT Hairspray

 

??????Lost Nation Theater??Lost Nation Theater presents “Hairspray,” the 2003 Broadway musical, April 21-May 8 at City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main St. in Montpelier. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday- Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For tickets or information, call 802-229-0492, or go online to www.lostnationtheater.org.