reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When I explored the history of Hairspray, the lively stage musical which opened this week at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, I was surprised to learn that this much-loved show started out as a modestly successful 1988 motion picture, which some called a “satirical dance melodrama”, and which starred the likes of Ricki Lake, Divine, Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, and Jerry Stiller, among others. It became a cult classic in its subsequent home video release and was eventually turned into the Tony Award winning Broadway musical version in 2002. The popular film adaptation was released in 2007 and featured memorable performances by John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, and Nikki Blondsky.

I’d have to say B&B’s remarkable production of the show will be equally memorable to those who attend. Developed by the creative talents of the prolific Eddie Curry/Ron Morgan production team, the show is a colorful, tune-filled, dance-charged swirl of entertaining performances with a righteous social message. Extremely well-cast, with near perfect musical facets, this story of teen anxieties, class rivalries and high-minded aspirations is a true delight.

Amber Von Tussle (Sarah Daniels), right, faces off with Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), center, in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray

Adee David, who returns to B&B following her role as ‘Pink Lady’ Jan in the recent production of Grease, is absolutely perfect as the star struck, idealistic teen – Tracy Turnblad. Her high-end vocal talents and impressive dance abilities are truly star quality stuff. Rounding out the Turnblad family are Daniel Klingler, a marvelous spectacle as Tracy’s mother Edna, and Eddie Curry, solid as Tracy’s fun-loving dad, Wilbur.

Seaweed J. Stubbs (Antonio LeRoy King) sings “Run and Tell That” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray

Standout performances are also offered by Nikki Miller, adorable as Tracy’s best friend Penny; Sarah Daniels and Amy Decker, aptly villainous as her rivals – Amber and Velma Von Tussle; Nate Willey, who sparkles as her dream boyfriend Link Larkin; Antonio LeRoy King, remarkable as her multi-talented friend Seaweed; and Tarra Conner Jones who, as Motormouth Maybelle, delivers a show-stopping rendition of the evocative and inspirational “I Know Where I’ve Been”.

Motormouth Maybelle (Tarra Conner Jones), center, sings a powerful “I Know Where I’ve Been” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray

Matthew C. Branic, is impressive as television personality Corny Collins, while B&B regulars Suzanne Stark and Jeff Stockberger both fill the stage with a roster of wacky smaller roles. The remaining ensemble members all add luster to the production, especially with regard to Morgan’s complex choreography and the absolutely stunning vocal work, directed by musical director Kristy Templet.


Link Larkin (Nate Willey), front, sings “It Takes Two” to Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), right, in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray

Twenty-five cast members share the stage, and the well crafted set design by Michael Layton, along with lights by Ryan Koharchik, and sound by Daniel Hesselbeck, nicely fills the bill. Ms. Templet’s six piece orchestra sounds bigger than the sum of its parts and is flawless throughout the tricky score.

Edna Turnblad (Daniel Klingler) shows off the dress she made to a national television audience in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray

Bottomline: This is yet another quality presentation from the practiced B&B methods of casting, directing, choreographing and technical embellishing. I love that this theatre is not afraid to put on large scale productions, on what is generally thought of as a medium sized stage. The craft and care toward putting together show after show of high merit is well appreciated.

Hairspray continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through October 6th. Find show times and reservations at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – photos by Julie Curry