INDIANAPOLIS — You can’t stop the beat of the high-energy music, show-stopping performances and social commentary in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”
For those unfamiliar with contemporary tale of class and race relations, “Hairspray” tells the story of Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), a high school student in 1960s Baltimore who dreams of dancing on the local TV dance program and meeting Link Larkin (Nate Willey), the heartthrob Elvis wannabe. Circumstances throw her into a whirlwind of fame, with the reluctant support of mother, Edna Turnbald (Daniel Klingler), and exuberant encouragement from her dreamer father, Wilbur Turnbald (Eddie Curry). During her journey, she meets Seaweed Stubbs (Antonio LeRoy King) and Motormouth Maybelle (Tara Conner Jones), who open her eyes and heart to the necessity of racially integrating the television program. Tracy has to choose between her dreams and her conscience. Her highly teased and significantly stiff hairdo symbolizes her unwavering determination to do the right thing.
From the opening scene, David grabs your heart with “Good Morning, Baltimore” and never lets go. Her portrayal of Tracy is filled with the angst of a teenager but the wisdom of a sage. David’s voice is right on, but it’s her dance moves that catch the eye and endear her character. She floats, hops, stomps and shakes her way into your heart.
Willey, as Link Larkin, does an excellent job in his portrayal of the egotistical self-proclaimed heartthrob. Willey’s performance wins over the audience as Link realizes that social justice may be more important than personal gain.
Klingler has the most challenging role as Edna, the ever-present bawdy mother of Tracy. As the night progresses, Daniel disappears and Edna emerges. Klingler’s delivery of dialogue is expertly timed to allow the audience a good laugh and makes them hungry for more. Even veteran actor Curry was not immune to Klingler’s delivery, as he had to bury his head in Edna’s shoulder to regain composure and continue the rendition of “Timeless to Me.”
Sarah Daniels is Amber Von Tussle, that friend everyone has that offers advice and screams caution at every decision made. Daniels’ expert vocals and delivery of dialogue have made her a regular on the B&B stage.
The stage belonged to Jones as Motormouth Maybelle. She brought the house to its feet with “I Know Where I’ve Been.” The standing ovation began halfway through the number and continued until the end. Jones’ passion and obvious personal connection with the subject matter permeated every heart and propelled her voice to the rafters. It was a performance well worth the admission.
Kudos go to choreographer Ron Morgan, whose magic amazes everyone. The dance numbers involving numerous individuals are filled with energy and rhythm that penetrates the soul. The last number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” filled the stage with 25 cast members. Any miscue or misdirection could cause bodily harm.
As “Hairspray” evolves on stage, it is very evident that this is not just a show filled with memorable music and lyrics, but a commentary on the times. Acceptance of those that are different and the necessity for change are themes interwoven throughout the entire performance. Audience members leave with the songs in their heads and the hope for a better world in their hearts.