Riverside Dinner Theater HairsprayBy Jennifer Gusso • Feb 1st, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Riverside Dinner Theater
Riverside Dinner Theater, Fredericksburg, VA
Through March 6th
2:40 with intermission
$50-$58/$46-$52 Seniors/$40 Child
Reviewed January 29th, 2011
As a chubby Baltimore girl who spent several years working as a school teacher in the city and seeing the still crippling effects of racial segregation, few shows warm my heart like Hairspray. It was stunning on Broadway and still stunning as a film. Was it possible to continue to bring that same level of WOW factor to Fredericksburg, Virginia? In the hands of Riverside Dinner Theater and Mark Minnick (Director & Choreographer), it was able to do that and so much more. There are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe this production.
Minnick stayed very true to everything that has made Hairspray a success. From the moment that Tracy started belting “Good Morning, Baltimore” in the standing bed, it was clear that he was paying enough homage to the Broadway production to give loyal fans what they were expecting to see. At the same time, between his blocking, choreography, and direction and the stunning cast of top-notch local performers, the production breathed new, fresh life into the original and had nuances, both humorous and heart-warming, that were all Riverside’s own. Minnick also did a seamless job of making sure that the stage never went dark, using crossover songs and choreography to transition between scenes.
The set, designed by Joseph Wallen, was both intricate and simple at the same time. It led to easy transitions and flexible use with choreography concurrent with stunning and detailed visuals. The lighting design of Phil Carlucci was breath-taking as a result of his use of color against the cyclorama and the precision of the design in complimenting the choreography. The costumes designed by Gaye Law and wigs were gorgeous and obviously presented no problems to the actors even with some very quick changes.
The excellent job done by the production team set the stage perfectly for the incredible performances to come. Cuellar’s Tracy was as full of energy and heart and beautiful belt as any Tracy could be. She easily filled the very big shoes of the role and captivated the audience from beginning to end. Still, the most amazing performances in the show came from E. Lawson and Michael as Tracy’s parents, Edna and Wilbur. Lawson’s Edna was drag at its finest. At the right moments, you believed that he was truly a woman and it was touching and sweet. And, at the right moments, you remembered he was a man and it was hysterical. Michael’s Wilbur was funny, sweet, and wise, and he had an absolutely beautiful voice. Their duet “Timeless to Me” was perfection in every aspect.
Strong and beautiful vocals, high-energy and precision-perfect dance skills, and colorful yet real characterizations were consistent qualities of every single member of the cast. Matt James’ likeable Corny Collins, Ghandchilar’s zany Penny, Kevin Scott’s conflicted Link, Sheri Hayden’s wickedly vain Velma, Abby Hart’s self-absorbed Amber, and Tillman’s sizzling Seawood were all equally as incredible, and the cast did an excellent job of alternating the spotlight as appropriate. Another amazing standout was Kimberly Fox as Motormouth Maybelle. Everything about her was strong and inspiring. Her “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” made you want to get up and strut your stuff, while her “I Know Where I’ve Been” made you want to continue to be a champion for change and true equality. As her daughter Little Inez, TayAndra Allen is also one to watch. With a voice like that, she has quite a future ahead of her.
Watching this true masterpiece, it felt like Broadway had actually come to Fredericksburg. It is also important to note that the ambience, service, and dinner were almost as first-class as the production. Forget the other dinner theaters, and take the trip to Riverside.
Cast (In Order of Appearance)
- Tracy Turnblad: Priscilla Cuellar
- Corny Collins: Matt James
- Edna Turnblad: James E. Lawson
- Penny Pingleton: Tina Ghandchilar
- Velma Von Tussle: Sheri Hayden
- Amber Von Tussle: Abby Hart
- Link Larkin: Kevin Scott
- Seaweed J. Stubbs: Antonio Tillman
- Little Inez: Tayandra Allen
- Motormouth Maybelle: Kimberly Fox
- Wilbur Turnblad: Jason Michael
- Prudy Pingleton/Gym Teacher/Matron: Sarah Pruden
- Mr. Pinky/harriman F. Spritzer: Robert L. Nelson
- Gilbert: Ricardo Coleman, Jr.
- Thad: Kenneth Gary
- Duane: Calvin Register, Jr.
- Council Members
- Tammy: Alyssa Bornschein
- Brad: Adam Workman
- Fender: Kendric Walpole
- Brenda: Carley Burtt
- Sketch: Joshua Adam Kelly
- Shelley: Adelyne Anderson
- The Dynamites
- Judine: Natasha Sanders
- Kamilah: Mariah Jenkins
- Shayna: Diane Pollock
- Alternates (some Wednesday Matinees)
- Tracy: Rebecca E. Law
- Edna: Jason Michael
- Wilbur: Doug Wall
- Seaweed: Calvin Register, Jr.
- Penny: Carley Burtt
- Corny/Link: Joshua Adam Kelly
- Velma: Sarah Pruden
- Motormouth: Diane Pollock
- Character Man: Doug Wall
- Duane: Anthony Williams
- Little Inez: Mariah Jenkins
- Female Teen Ensemble Swing: Brittnie Worley
- Male Teen Ensemble Swing: Alan Schlichting
- Produced by Rollin E. Wehman
- Directed and Choreographed by Mark Minnick
- Musical Direction by Rollin E. Wehman
- Set Construction by Curtis Craddock & John Mahon
- Scenic Design by Joseph Wallen
- Scenic Artists: Matthew P. Westcott & Maria Duke
- Lighting Design by Phil Carlucci
- Costume Design/Coordination: Gaye Law
- Production Manager: Chalmers Hood
- Stage Manager: Ben Feindt
- Associate Artistic Director for Riverside Center: Patrick A’Hearn
Disclaimer: Riverside Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6131.
Jennifer Gusso has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musical for use in church.