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Companies Reviewed#
Center Theatre of the MJCCA1
Average Rating Given : 3.50000
Reviews in Last 6 months :

Hairspray, by Mark O'Donnell, Thomas Meehan, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Something to Like
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Hairspray is one of those iconic theatre pieces that appeals to community theatres and their patrons. It offers a good story, a period piece that the audience can relate to, and multiple character opportunities to actors. The Center Theatre production at the Marcus JCC did a fine job of entertaining the sold-out crowd I was part of, and produced some stand-out performances.

Most notable of the performances was that of the ensemble. While some performances tend to have a “black” ensemble and a “white” ensemble, this one just had an ensemble. They worked beautifully together in all combinations, but best when they were all together, just as our heroin, Tracy Turnblad (Stephanie Ward) envisioned that it would. The group dance numbers were all very well executed, and the costuming was very well conceived and helped provide a unified front.

Ms. Ward in the role of Tracy was physically spot-on, and while the dancing could have been better executed at times, overall she won over the audience. JD Touchton as Link Larkin wasn’t my favorite in the cast, but he was charming and overall the characterization was good. Kristin Hall as Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend, was engaging throughout the performance, and I looked forward to her every word, song, and move on stage. The same is true of Kiarra West as Little Inez, young daughter of Motormouth Maybelle. Both of these young ladies made me want to see the show again.

Tracy’s parents, Edna and Wilbur (Tony Smithey and John Stanier) completely stole my heart, and that of the audience. Mr. Smithey’s Edna was a delight to watch, and Mr. Stanier was a perfect complement to the over-the-top character that Edna is.

Carrie Anne Manuel as Amber Von Tussle clearly had a great time playing the bad girl, and she was delightful in her performance. It was both easy and hard to hate her. And Kameeka Williams (Motormouth Maybelle), while perhaps a little out of her vocal range at times, was an excellent voice of Tracy’s protest to only one “Negro Day” each month. And she was a real audience favorite.

Notable performances in the ensemble came from Joe Arnotti and Lindsay Via, who danced beautifully, and could always be seen singing and smiling, and beautifully in character, while on stage. And The Dynamites (Krystal Camille White, Rosemary Blankson, and Quentin Reynolds) were a treat at every opportunity. Vocally and in character, the three were a real team. And hats off to whoever cast Mr. Reynolds – he was a lovely addition.

Overall, I enjoyed the choreography, and I especially enjoyed the execution of the choreography. The show is, at its heart, a 50’s dance piece, and this naturally limits the choreographer. Krystle Simmons appears to have provided her cast with complex dances that they seemed quite capable of presenting well to the audience. In the performance I saw, the cast was nearly flawless in the big dance numbers.

Technically, the set was simple but effective. And the opening of the second act was a perfect example of how a set can enhance the acting, singing, and dancing, and really complete a director’s vision. Lighting was well done, and never distracting. I would have appreciated better execution in the sound department, given that you had actors who where giving their all, only to not be heard at times. Some transitions were a little labored, but none were distracting. The technical misses affected my rating of the show overall.

In every community there are hits and misses. And all of them bring out our inner director. But I was entertained by this show, I didn't look at my watch, and I found something to like here.

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