S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Hairspray: The Musical

Hairspray hasn't been in repertory in Toronto for more than six months, and already it's closing. This is the last week. We saw it tonight, and I understand a part of why it doesn't have the staying power it could.

Don't get me wrong. It's a fun musical, there are some fine musical numbers in it, the actors were good, and the lead was spot on. It was funny and it was clever. It had heart. But there's a fair amount else it didn't have. The plot wasn't in the songs, it was in the dialog. The plot wasn't much in the action either: it was still in the dialog. Few songs added much to the progression of the plot, and while the dancing was fun to watch, it didn't add much to plot progression either. Plot, while often optional in a musical (Cats), can be conveyed effectively and complexly too (Les Miserables).

ultrascichick was the one who made the plot progression observations, and she was the only one of us who'd seen the movie and so could compare. The movie had grit. The characters didn't talk about going through the ghetto, they were shown in one. The movie offered less deus ex machina intervention from on high and more direct action. But I haven't seen it and can't compare myself.

The lead actor, Vanessa Olivarez (a 2003 American Idol contestant, among other things), was wonderful to watch. She was always on, always perky and in a good, not tiring way. I particularly liked the song "Mama, I'm a big girl now", and by the end, "Good Morning, Baltimore" was definitely growing on me.

(The music, by the way, was written in part by Marc Shaiman, known most recently for co-writing the songs for Team America.)

It was a good evening and a good musical. But not a great one.

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