Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Downtown Cabaret Theatre
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

G. Lariccia and Lynette Marshall and Cast
Photo by Kevin McNair
If I was asked to say what my favorite musical of the last twenty-five years was, I would probably say Hairspray, since I feel almost every song in the show is a showstopper. So I am delighted to report that Downtown Cabaret Theatre's current production of Hairspray is a real winner. Beautifully designed and directed, with a terrific cast and an awesome band, this show is a blast from beginning to end. Also, this presentation of the musical achieves a buoyancy and ebullience that is completely infectious and everyone onstage seems to be having the time of their lives. So, put on your dancing shoes and get down to the Downtown Cabaret Theatre as quickly as possible to see Hairspray, which has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan and a bright score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, for it is truly an evening of fabulous fun.

Right from the start, it's evident that this production is going to work out just fine. In the opening number, "Good Morning, Baltimore," the audience is quickly introduced to Tracy Turnblad, and Lynette Marshall proves to be the ideal leading lady in this role, with a wonderful singing voice, terrific dancing skills, and a warmth that spreads throughout the theatre. This is not the easiest role to cast, since the character pretty much carries the entire show, but Marshall is a real find and she radiates star quality.

The role of Tracy's mother, Edna is also difficult to cast. Harvey Fierstein left an indelible mark on this character in the original Broadway production, and practically all of the Edna's lines are tailored to his presence and persona. So it is extremely fortunate that Downtown Cabaret Theatre has cast G. Lariccia, who is superlative as Edna. With padding, Lariccia has the proper size that the character calls for, but, even more crucially, manages to get all of the laughs, as well as putting over the songs beautifully. Lariccia is a striking and unique performer, with the ability to command attention onstage—and to look divine in the succession of dresses that the brilliant costume designer Jessica Camarero has fashioned (all the costumes in the show are pretty great). To top it off, Bobbie Pinz and Mollie Dananberg share the duties of wig designers and their work is truly monumental.

In other roles, Chris Kozlowski, who was so good as Jay Gatsby in Downtown Cabaret Theatre's production of The Great Gatsby last season, is the perfect Corny Collins, with a strong singing voice. Also doing fine work are Eric Dino as Tracy's father Wilbur (with his second act duet, "You're Timeless to Me," opposite G. Lariccia a real pleasure) and Eric Regan has the looks and talent to make a grand Link Larkin, the heartthrob in the show. As Tracy's best friend Penny, Kristin Gagliardi is a joy and she partners wonderfully with Garth West as Seaweed, whose "Run and Tell That" number brings down the house.

And speaking of bringing down the house, Alana Cauthen is sensational as Motormouth Maybelle, with her singing of "I Know Where I've Been" getting the biggest ovation in the show. But the entire cast is fine, with Chelsea Dacey an amusing Amber von Tussle and Karen Hanley a scream as Velma von Tussle, with her giant blonde wig almost being a show in itself. Jessica Paige Braun, Faith Fernandes, and Leondra Smith-West bring a lot of sass to the show as the Dynamites.

Director Christy McIntosh-Newsom has done a wonderful job guiding this show and choreographer Lindsay Johnson supplies all the sprightly dance numbers. Eli Newsom is the masterful musical director of the swinging offstage band and set designer Leif Smith and lighting designer Phill Hill do invaluable work. This production has everything going for it and, to paraphrase one of the songs in the show, "The Nicest Kids in Town." Downtown Cabaret Theatre's revival of Hairspray is truly the happiest show in town.

Hairspray continues performances at Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT through October 16, 2016. For tickets, please visit or call the box office at 203-576-1636.

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