Hairspray at BAM 2019 26It’s a time capsule of a time capsule, looking back to the 1988 John Waters film, the 2002 Tony-winning Broadway musical and the 2007 film starring John Travolta. So why does Hairspray seem so fresh and of the moment in its summer 2019 San Francisco incarnation?

Maybe it’s the lineage of the character of Edna Turnblad, originally played by Divine, then by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway and John Travolta in the musical film. The idea that the story’s mom is played casually by a man stands the whole world on its end and throws the musical’s story of racial prejudice and empowerment into relief.

After more than 30 years of living with this story, perhaps the biggest deal is that the casting, baked into Hairspray from its earliest days, is no big deal.

So how does Scott DiLorenzo do as Edna? Exactly right. He’s all woman, coping with a sometimes-trying daughter, flirting with her devoted hubby and never playing Edna for cheap laughs or gender dysphoric chuckles. Yes, there are a couple of times when Edna’s voice drops a few octaves in moments of drama, but that’s just a time for audience and actors to share a quick joke. It emphasizes, rather than detracts from the story’s powerful message that race, gender, age, weight, you name it – these are all part of who we are, but none of them separates us from our brother and sister humans.

Sorry – I should be talking about the show by now. This Bay Area Musicals production is barrels of fun. Every single character feels right, seems honest, relates to others in both that broad show business way and the way we confront or partner with the other people in our own orbit.

The voices are Broadway silver: bright, on pitch, cutting through, and blending with each other seamlessly.

[Image: Scott DiLorenzo as Edna Turnblad. Credit: Ben Krantz Studio] 

My one, and it’s only one, complaint is that the amplification tends toward the deafening, and we are bludgeoned sometimes, especially when everyone is at their full-throated best. Turn it down, folks. Trust the glorious voices of your talented cast.

Don’t know the show? I should give your phone number to the young woman in the row in front of us who had seen it more times than she could count and listened to the cast album “millions” of times. But the setting is Baltimore in the early 1960s. Our plus-size heroine, Tracy Turnblad (Cassie Grilley), rushes home each day to turn on the live Corny Collins (Scott Taylor-Cole) dance show, where (all-white) kids play the part of teenagers enjoying the dance music of the day. When the director yells “cut” they’re just kids, but we know, if they don’t, that “Negro Day,” the once-a-month time when kids from the other (wrong) side of the tracks take over, will be where the real action is.

That is, unless Tracy and her friend Penny Pingleton, can find a way for the black and white kids to dance together, leading the way to another, perhaps unreal, era. The enormously talented Seaweed J. Stubbs (Dave Abrams) and Motormouth Maybelle (Elizabeth Jones) quickly demonstrate why Baltimore’s black culture contributes immeasurably to the city’s soul.

The show starts with a bang. “Good Morning Baltimore” romanticizes the city’s flashers and deadbeats as well as its energetic and lively teens. We know from the get-go that this will be an all-singing all-dancing don’t-stop-or-slow-down-at-any-cost juggernaut.

The small band is spot on, led by music director Jon Gallo; the sets by Lynn Grant are comic book simple; the costumes (by Brooke Jennings) feel like the 1960s.

Another standout in the cast is Melissa Momboisse, as Penny Pingleton, who has that great part in musicals where the mousy best friend becomes a (spoiler alert) sexy femme fatale. Her transition is perfect.

Gotta free evening between now and August 11? Run, don’t walk to the Victoria Theatre 2961 16th Street, where gender fluidity reigns and love is in the air. 

To save $10.00 Off* Tickets Use Code: BAM10

Below - Dave Abrams as Seaweed J. Stubbs goes airborne. Credit: Ben Krantz Studio

Hairspray at BAM 2019 13

Cassie Grilley IS Tracy Turnblad: Credit: Ben Krantz Studio

Hairspray at BAM 2019 1

Arts News

  • simone porter
    January 24, 2020

    Simone Porter Thrills Audience in Sibelius Violin Concerto

    On the program recorded the weekend of January 11 through 13, we’ll be hearing a work written in 2013 by Missy Mazzoli called Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres). Missy Mazzoli is in her second season as composer in residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We’ll also hear the Symphony Number Two by…
  • Rialto logo
    January 07, 2020

    Anniversary Gives Rialto Cinemas Founder Chance to Reflect

    Ky Boyd opened his first Rialto movie theater 20 years ago in Sonoma County. Today, there are three Bay Area Rialtos, including one in Sebastopol. At those theaters, live and taped opera, ballet, and drama mix with Hollywood blockbusters and art house flicks. Boyd came by the station recently to…
  • IMG 2078
    January 01, 2020

    Educators Release Plan for Expanding the Arts in Schools

    Nearly 80 percent of Sonoma County high schools do not offer comprehensive, arts education. That’s according to an analysis by the Sonoma County Arts Alliance. The alliance is a partnership between the non-profit Creative Sonoma, the Sonoma County Office of Education, and several other arts…
  • SSU Chorus 1
    December 30, 2019

    Santa Rosa Symphony, SSU Chorus Shine in Mozart Requiem

    On Sunday, January 5 at 3 pm join KRCB and host Steve Mencher for a broadcast of the Santa Rosa Symphony performing Mozart's Requiem in D minor, K.626. This is Mozart's final work; it was unfinished at his death. In the past, orchestras have used a version of the piece completed by Mozart's pupil…
  • Ibram Kendi crop
    December 24, 2019

    Author Ibram X. Kendi Says "Not Racist" is Not Enough

    Ibram X. Kendi, won the National Book Award in 2016 for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. He spoke at the Sonoma County Library earlier this month about his latest book How to Be an Antiracist. It goes beyond the first book to offer prescriptions for…
  • bela juno
    December 02, 2019

    Béla Fleck Wows Santa Rosa in Fire-Shortened Concert

    Banjo master Béla Fleck came to town as hundreds of thousands in Sonoma County returned to their homes on the heels of the Kincade fire. Due to limited rehearsal time, the orchestra played only one of the four movements of Aaron Copland's Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo. But Fleck played every note…
  • lowell bergman courtesyUCBerkeley
    Nov 15, 2019

    Journalist Lowell Bergman Shares Tales of a Storied Career

    In the film The Insider, Al Pacino plays crusading journalist Lowell Bergman, as he takes on the tobacco industry and his bosses at the CBS…
  • jade shojaee gypsy comp
    Nov 14, 2019

    This 'Gypsy' May Change Your View of Who The Show Is About

    I don't have a lot of notes from my experience sitting in the dark on Gypsy's opening night. One says simply "Bernadette Peters." I had been trying…
  • francesco steve
    Oct 25, 2019

    Beethoven and Strauss Featured in Opening Concert

    (Editor's Note: We are pleased to announce that the broadcast of the first classical concert from the Santa Rosa Symphony, which few people were able…
  • IMG 1740
    Oct 15, 2019

    Alcatraz Takeover - 50 Year Anniversary

    This fall, members of tribes from up and down the West Coast and as far away as Hawaii paddled out to Alcatraz in canoes to commemorate the takeover…
  • Martin Zuniga Mural
    Sep 18, 2019

    Roseland Mural Welcomed into the Community

    Martín Zúñiga created a vibrant mural this summer with about a dozen young women from the Santa Rosa community. It's at Roseland Elementary: A…
  • irwin keller jpg
    Sep 03, 2019

    Local Jewish Leader Questions Trump's 'Disloyalty' Claim

    In late August, President Donald Trump said this to American Jews: “If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and…
  • 7 CARMELITA 3396 smaller
    Aug 16, 2019

    Portraits of Unhoused Neighbors Emphasize Humanity

    The Second Annual Festival of Belonging returns to Santa Rosa on September 13th and 14th. With artful image and thought-provoking conversation, this…
  • Woodstock
    Aug 15, 2019

    Schulz Museum Celebrates Woodstock Festival on its 50th Anniversary

    After their disastrous performance at Woodstock, the Grateful Dead almost dropped out of the music business entirely. Fifty years later, Drummer…
  • AppleFair2019
    Aug 12, 2019

    Gravenstein Apple Fair

    The Gravenstein Apple Fair is held under the shade of majestic oaks every August in Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol. Join NorCal Public Media for a…
  • variety_show_for_website
    Aug 08, 2019

    Bohemian Club Provides Talent for Monte Rio Variety Show

    The Monte Rio Variety show is an annual event put on by volunteers in the community. But the talent, most of which is kept under wraps until show…
  • Cows Smaller resize
    Aug 07, 2019

    Residents Celebrate Agricultural Roots at Sonoma County Fair

    The theme of this year’s 83rd annual Sonoma County Fair is “Back to Our Roots in Cowboy Boots.” It's meant to celebrate the region's long history in…
  • 19 MKT Ask Francesco
    Jul 24, 2019

    Santa Rosa Symphony Performs Free Concert

    The Santa Rosa Symphony's new music director and conductor, Francesco Lecce-Chong, will lead his first full season beginning this fall. This is the…

NorCal News

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.