Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Toby’s Dinner Theatre Hairspray

By • Mar 31st, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Columbia, MD
Through August 1st
2:40, with one intermission
$46-$51/Children $32.50-$51
Reviewed March 19, 2010

Hairspray is the multi-award-winning musical treatment of John Waters’ popular movie of the same name. This tribute to the early ’60s presents a teenager’s awakening to the issues surrounding the civil rights movement and interracial equality presented against the backdrop of the Corny Collins Show, (a Baltimore TV dance show based on the real-life Buddy Deane Show). I saw this show without any preconceived notions, having missed both movies and any previous stage version of the show. I found it to be a marvelous combination of entertaining music and thoughtful story, wrapped up in the glitter and glamor of the 60s. In this age of political correctness and progressive politics (just have a look at the leaders of our country), it’s relatively easy to forget how close we are to that time. And it’s refreshing to see such a positive spin on such a politically charged time.

Tracy Turnblad, (played by an effervescent Celia Blitzer), is a teenager gifted with the ability to see beyond color and stereotype to the hearts of her friends. She crosses and then blurs the lines between black and white, with an eternally optimistic attitude and a song in her heart.

Tracy’s not alone in her crusade to see justice in her small corner of the world. Her best friend (Penny Pingleton, played by MaryLee Adams in a star-quality performance), parents (Edna, portrayed hysterically by Lawrence B. Munsey, who also provided the fabulous costumes) and Wilbur (David James at his absolute campiest), support her completely, leading to some of the funniest and most sobering scenes in the show.

The bad guys include Velma Von Tussle (Heather Marie Beck), producer of the Corny Collins show, a poisonous, self-serving mother whose daughter, Amber (Jamie Eacker), is as attractive as she is vile-tempered and ambitious. Caught in the middle are Corny Collins (Jeffrey Shankle), who knows the right thing but doesn’t quite have the guts to follow through, Link Larkin (David Jennings), the heart-throb whose been paired with Amber but sees the real thing in Tracy. Standing up for the other side are Motormouth Maybelle (Jesaira Glover) the mama with attitude who knows where she’s been and where she should be going, Seaweed J. Stubbs (Frank Anthony), wise-cracking dancer and Little Inez (Melissa Victor), dance-Council wannabe who’s just that much too young to participate, even though she’s got the chops. Rounding out the cast is an array of exceptionally talented folk playing the ensemble, who cover all the remaining parts, and Shawn Kettering, whose various cameo roles earn increasingly large laughs whenever he shows up on stage.

Of particular note are The Dynamites, whose spectacular rendition of “Welcome To The 60s” just about brings down the house, “The Big Dollhouse,” a Chicago-esque prison number with terrific choreography and the best use of jail bars I’ve ever seen in an arena setting, and “I Know Where I’ve Been” Motormouth Maybelle’s exceptionally moving plea for progress for the sake of her children is simply amazing. In general, the songs are catchy, thoughtful and very often flat out funny. These are just a few of the highlights in this overall exceptionally entertaining evening of theatre.

Toby Orenstein’s sure direction, Mark Minnick’s excellent choreography and Brant Challacombe’s music direction shine in this production. The costumes – oh, the costumes – are worth mentioning all on their own. Lighting designer Lynn Joslin and Set designer David A. Hopkins do an admirable job taking us from the Corny Collins studio to the Turnblad home, to a rhythm and blues record shop and more. It’s a terrific evening of entertainment.

Program Notes

Follow this story of a young girl’s dreams of popularity, told through hair-dos, dance steps and heartthrobs. You’ll be waking up and singing “Good Morning Baltimore!” So spray up those beehives and join us for a deliciously entertaining evening, hon!

In Hairspray, it’s 1962, the ’50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore’s Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – to dance. She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show” and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program’s reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her ‘do? Only in Hairspray! Welcome to the ’60s!

The Cast (in order of appearance)

  • Tracy Turnblad: Celia Blitzer
  • Corny Collins: Jeffrey Shankle
  • Edna Turnblad: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Penny Pingleton: MaryLee Adams
  • Velma Von Tussle: Heather Marie Beck
  • Amber Von Tussle: Jamie Eacker
  • Link Larkin: David Jennings
  • Seaweed J. Stubbs: Frank Anthony
  • Little Inez: Melissa Victor
  • Motormouth Maybelle: Jesaira Glover
  • Wilbur Turnblad: David James
  • Prudy Pingleton, Gym Teacher, Matron: Debra Buonaccorsi
  • Harriman F. Spritzer, Mr. Pinky, Guard: Shawn Kettering
  • Council Members:
  • Tammy: Jen Kohlhafer
  • Fender: Parker Drown
  • Brenda/Shelley: Katie Harrington
  • Sketch: Shane McCauley
  • IQ: Randy Snight
  • Lou Ann: Christen Svingos
  • The Dynamites:
    • Pearl/Judine: Mary Searcy
    • Peaches/Lorraine: Jessica Coleman
    • Cindy Watkins/Shayna: Ashleigh King
  • Gilbert: Scean A. Flowers
  • Duane: Bryan Daniels
  • Understudies/Alternates:
    • Tracy Turnblad: Ariel Vinitsky
    • Edna/Wilbur: Shawn Kettering
    • Velma Von Tussle/Penny Pingleton: Debra Buonaccorsi
    • Corny Collins: Dan Sonntag
    • Amber Von Tussle/Prudy Pingleton Maria Rizzo
    • Link Larkin: Parker Drown
    • Seaweed J. Stubbs: Bryan Daniels
    • Motormouth Maybelle: Ashleigh King
    • Dynamites: Melissa Victor
    • Harriman Spritzer / Mr. Pinky / Guard: Charlie Abel
  • Swings: Antonio Beverly, Emily Madden, Maria Rizzo, Ryan Patrick Welsh, Jason Wiggins


  • Piano / Conductor: Brant D. Challacombe, Cedric Lyles, Alan Hart
  • Drums: Anders Elliason, Tom Harold, Aaron Holmes
  • Guitar: Soren Mattson, Kim Spath, Keith Adams, Jason Weiss
  • Bass: Andrew Webb, Linda Cote, Jason Wilson
  • Reeds: Katie Kellert, Kris Sanz, Charlene McDaniels
  • Keyboards: Ann Prizzi, Ed Myers

Production Staff

  • Director: Toby Orenstein
  • Choreographer: Mark Minnick
  • Musical Director: Brant Challacombe
  • Set Designer: David A. Hopkins
  • Costume Designer: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Della Lottman
  • Costume Assistants: Samn Huffer, Janine Sunday, Randy Snight, Rose
  • Woolford, Claire Cantwell
  • Lighting Designer: Lynn Joslin
  • Sound Designer: Drew Dedrick
  • Production Manager: Vickie S. Johnson
  • Production Assistant: Tina Marie DeSimone
  • Production Intern: Danny Clemens
  • Production Stage Manager: Kate Wackerle
  • Stage Managers: Kate Wackerle, Drew Dedrick
  • Dance Captain: Jason Wiggins
  • Master Carpenter: Jason Krznarich
  • Set Construction: Russell Sunday, Jason Krznarich, Corey Brown
  • Properties and Set Dressing: Amy Kaplan
  • Light Board Operators: Coleen M. Foley, Erin MacDonald
  • Sound Operators: Drew Dedrick, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Stage Crew: Erin MacDonald, Jeanie McAlpine, Danny Clemens

Theatre Staff

  • Artistic Director: Toby Orenstein
  • General Manager: Joel Friedman
  • Assistant Manager: Patrick Albright
  • Form Manager: Steve Lewis
  • Chef / Kitchen Manager: Chuck Cofield
  • Chef / Assistant Kitchen Manager: Anthony Beachum
  • Director of Group Sales / Tour and Travel: Cheryl Clemens
  • Assistant Director of Group Sales / Tour and Travel: Audrey Kyle
  • Director of Marketing: Nancy Michel
  • Bookkeeper: Bayna Castner
  • Box Office Manager: Judy Abrams
  • Associate Artistic Directors: David A. Hopkins, Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Production Manager: Vickie S. Johnson
  • Technical Director: Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Technical Supervisor: Dave Beahm
  • Theatre Photography / Website Developer: Kirstine Christiansen
  • Youth Theatre Administrator: Toba Barth
  • Bar Manager: Shawn Kettering
  • Box Office Staff: Judy Berry, Laura Blasi, Mary Dempsey, Lynae Harris,
  • Breena Hebron, Estelle King, Clare Krasnick, Marie Moineau, Pat Wright
  • Group Sales Hosting Staff: Denise Steadman, Paula Jones, Laura
  • Ciborowski, Bonnie Ciborowski
  • Maintenance Engineers: Stephen B. Harris, Mike Monahan

Disclaimer: Toby’s Dinner Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

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