“Hairspray” Musical Review

posted April 20, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Sophia D'Ovidio.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Broadway tour of the iconic musical “Hairspray” was brought to the Eisenhower Auditorium by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State on Thursday.

“Hairspray” is undisputedly one of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time. Its original run on Broadway earned it eight Tony Awards, and the musical has received film adaptations and live performances on television.

The story of 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad becoming a star on her local TV station's dance show while also protesting the segregation occurring in 1960s Baltimore has managed to be timeless against all odds.

The show has a beloved soundtrack and one that has surpassed musical theater fans and made its way into the pop-culture zeitgeist.

Having a production of this nature in State College is definitely exciting, especially for musical theater fans.

Thursday night's performance of this classic musical was absolutely phenomenal. The packed house at the Eisenhower Auditorium was brought to their feet when the cast began to take their bows.

The cast deserved this praise from the audience as each and every member was extraordinary in their role. “Hairspray” has a large ensemble, and each member performed so well, but there was apparent chemistry between the cast, which elevated the show to another level.

Andrew Levitt played Edna Turnblad to perfection. He was such a presence on stage and so compelling to watch perform. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Levitt is a seasoned performer.

Levitt competed in season eleven of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as Nina West. He has performed as the drag queen since 2001. Levitt has an impressive resume of stage and television credits along with this appearance.

Niki Metcalf was also another excellent casting decision. Playing the coveted role of Tracy Turnblad, Metcalf has a lot on her plate. Nevertheless, she handled it with ease, and not only was she a perfect Tracy, but she made playing her look relatively easy.

Notably, her opening performance of “Good Morning Baltimore” was engaging and expertly gathered the audience’s attention. More so, Metcalf’s “I Can Hear the Bells” performance was absolutely flawless. 

Making his national tour debut as Seaweed, Jamonté D. Bruten was sensational in the role. He had the charisma and vocal ability necessary for this part, which isn’t easy.

Other standouts include Kaelee Albritton as Amber Von Tussle, Sandie Lee as Motormouth Maybelle, Kaléa Leverette as Little Inez and Will Savarse as Link Larkin.

It was clear that the cast was enjoying the energy from the audience. Ad-libbed jokes directed at Penn State were met with booming laughter and applause. Penn Staters are known for their spirit and pride in sports, but it was nice to see how this translated to the performing arts.

Every single member of this cast deserves recognition as not a single member could be accused of not carrying their weight.

The crew also deserves proper recognition. “Hairspray” takes place across many different locations, something that can be difficult to convey well on stage.

The set design was creative and easy for the audience to understand which setting the characters were in. The cleverness of the design and the seamlessness in which sets were moved played a vital part in pulling off this production.

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State deserved enormous props for getting a production like this at University Park. The Eisenhower Auditorium was packed, and the audience was eating up the performance from beginning to end.

“Hairspray” may be one of the most widely beloved musicals of all time, and this production of the show was a great reminder of why.

Sophia D’Ovidio is a first-year majoring in communications. To contact her, email sgd5184@psu.edu.