As with the show's Broadway production, it's Jerry Mitchell's nimble choreography and the lead performances from Tony Award winners Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein as Tracy and Edna Turnbland that mostly make this a buoyant evening.
Winokur, with her booming nasal voice, belts her opening number, "Good Morning Baltimore" as if she's singing it for the first time. And Fierstien is both knowingly butch yet femininely boisterous as Edna, with a voice so husky that he makes Kathleen Turner sound like Kristin Chenoweth.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Teen heartthrob Nick Jonas as Link Larkin gets screams from the audiences every time he speaks, which can be grating for those missing his child-like appeal. But the boy can sing as well as groove to those 60s moves. Even better is Corbin Bleu, with a voice like smooth caramel, strutting his feet to the beat in "Run And Tell That," as Seaweed.
Drew Carey, as Tracy's dad Wilbur, overplays a bit, but is so winning in his big duet with Fierstein, "Timeless to Me," that you forgive him for all his mugging. The biggest treat is Darlene Love as Motormouth Maybelle. Although she can't sell the dialogue that turns Maybelle into a rhyming character from Dr. Seuss, she blasts "I Know Where I've Been" and "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" into outer space.
On the down side, Diana DeGarmo is uneven as the goofy pal Penny Pingletoin; John Stamos is surprisingly flat (both performance-wise and musically) as dance show host Corny Collins; and Susan Anton is a major disappointment as the wannabe femme fatale Velma Von Tussle. She can't sing or dance, her acting is overwrought, and her stage presence is minimal. (Fortuntalely, Velma's big number, "Miss Baltimore Crabs," has been cut.)
It's mostly in the book scenes where the show runs out of steam -- as if the grandness of the stage has exhausted the cast. Major mike problems only exacerbate the situation as lines of dialogue are unheard. In fact, had the book been further trimmed, this Hairspray would have been a giant thrill.
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