The magic of the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s production of ‘Hairspray’
*Editor’s note: The first reference of “Motormouth Maybelle” was misspelled. The error has been corrected online.
I attended the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s production of Hairspray on Sunday, and the amount of talent and energy that the cast brought to the show completely exceeded my expectations. As someone who doesn’t attend plays as much as I should, this production made me want to return to the theatre to see more every chance I get.
A brief description of the show included in a press release states,
“The 1950s are out, and change is in the air! Hairspray, winner of eight Tony Awards including “Best Musical,” is a family-friendly musical piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance and deliriously tuneful songs. It’s 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire: To dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a T.V. network, all without denting her ‘do!”
Jamie Lawson directs the performance, and the cast includes Jessie Stewart as Tracy Turnblad, John C. Wilson as Link Larkin, Gray Smith as Edna Turnblad, Neil Shepherd as Wilbur Turnblad, Heather Jaynes as Velma Von Tussle, Taylor Bechtold as Amber Von Tussle, Jalik Roberson as Seaweed, and Dee Curry as Motormouth Maybelle.
There are so many shining moments of this local performance including Jessie Stewart (her seventh Theatre Alliance production) in the lead role of Tracy Turnblad. Stewart captures the audiences’ heart in her emotional performance of the song “I Can Hear The Bells.”
Gray Smith was hysterical in the role of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother. Smith is magnificent in timing and facial expressions. He is so convincing in his part; it made me wonder at times if he and co-star, Neil Shephard, who plays Edna’s husband, Wilbur Turnblad, are just having a conversation and improvising their lines. The chemistry between the pair is genuine and convincing. I felt a real connection as they joked and jabbed at each other during the show.
The highlight of the show for me was a performance by Dee Curry, who plays Motormouth Maybelle. Curry says, “We can’t get lazy when things get crazy.” And then slowly rolls into the intimate and powerful song, “I Know Where You’ve Been.” Her performance lifted me and took me somewhere else. I can’t explain it, but it was a magical moment. As I slowly returned to reality and realized where I was, I had to acknowledge that this show was extraordinary.
Theatre Alliance’s Hairspray is being met with great enthusiasm and excitement. So much so, the production has extended its show dates an additional week.
Now, you have the opportunity to see Hairspray on July 18, 19, 20 at 8 p.m., July 21 at 2 p.m., and the newly added dates of July 25, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. and July 28 at 2 p.m. The show takes place at the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance located at 1047 Northwest Blvd. Tickets range from $16 to $18, and more information can be found on the website, www.wstheatrealliance.org.