Christopher Sieber and Christine Danelson lead a uniformly strong cast in the Paper Mill Playhouse's incredibly entertaining production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.
Matt Lenz, associate director of the original Broadway production, has carefully recreated Jack O'Brien's original Broadway direction alongside Michele Lynch, who has restaged Jerry Mitchell's choreography. (The original scenic, lighting and costume designs are also used -- which is another big plus!)
Best of all, the production is blessed with a uniformly strong cast that brings fresh interpretations to now iconic roles. The terrific Christine Danelson is the rambunctious and optimistic Tracy Turnblad, a teenage girl with big hips and hair in 1962 Baltimore who dares to win the affection of teenage heartthrob Link Larkin, dance on "The Corny Collins Show," and racially integrate the popular television program. Not only is Danelson a standout dancer and singer, she brings a real sincerity to Tracy that stresses the character's youth and innocence.
Broadway veteran Christopher Sieber -- in a far different kind of "drag" than he wore in the recent Shrek the Musical -- makes for a warm, sensitive and very funny Edna Turnblad. Never before has the long note at end of "The Big Dollhouse" been held for so long. While Sieber enjoys lowering his voice at times for comic effect -- and adding high kicks and ballet moves in "Timeless to Me" -- it is a performance that is never campy and always feels natural. It's also one that is perfectly complemented by Lee Roy Reams as Edna's outrageous and giddy hubby Wilbur.
Among the standouts in the supporting cast are Donna English, who portrays Velma Von Tussle -- determined to have her daughter Amber win Miss Teenage Hairspray crown over Tracy, less as a villainess and more as a fully dimensional woman full of insecurity and doubt; Arielle Campbell as the energetic youngster Little Inez, Alex Ellis as Tracy's adorably nerdy best pal Penny Pingleton, Constantine Rousouli as dreamy Link Larkin, Caliaf St. Aubyn as soulful dancer Seaweed Stubbs, and Natasha Yvette Williams as the proud and loud Motormouth Maybelle.