Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hairspray—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“…and the beat goes on…!”

this outrageously charming musical is based on the John Waters film.  It is directed by Christopher Liam Moore, book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman & Shaiman.  Also, choreography by Jaclyn Miller and music direction by Gregg Coffin.  It is playing at the Bowmer Theatre, in repertory, through October 27th. 

The Rainbow is a many-splendored thing, made up of varied layers, colors and depths, which all contribute to the whole Beauty of this result of working together.  We, too, are Rainbows, all of us, dependent on each other to foster a harmonious environment.  And so, toiling as one, each with their own unique gifts to offer, we survive.  Without doing this, we perish.  The choice is ours…for our own sakes, we need to succeed in being inclusive and embracing the Whole.

And, with that, we arrive in Baltimore in the early 60’s.  And, after experiencing this explosion in the status quo, the world will never be the same again!  The Turnblad family seems pretty typical of the times.  Edna (Daniel T. Parker), the mom, takes in laundry for a living; Wilbur (David Kelly), the dad, runs a magic shop and is a self-styled inventor; and Tracy (Katy Geraghty), the daughter, is… well, let’s just say for now, she is a pretty normal teen except, inside, there’s a revolution brewing, which will soon erupt into the whole, wide world.

She, and her best friend, Penny (Jenna Bainbridge), dream of appearing as dancers on the Corny Collins (Eddie Lopez) Show (a stand-in for the real “American Bandstand”).  Her parents forbid it, which only spurs her forward.  But the manager of the station, Velma (Kate Mulligan), a snob of the first order, laughs at her antics, as her daughter, Amber (Leanne Smith), is the darling of the show.  But the resident hunk, Link (Jonathan Luke Stevens), takes a shine to her and so she is accepted into this dance pack.

But her revolutionary ideas do not stop there.  She also has befriended some of the African-American population, including Motormouth (Greta Oglesby), owner of a neighborhood record store, Seaweed (Christian Bufford), an accomplished dancer, and others to defy tradition, and sees no reason why they should not be dancing as equals on the show, too.  Needless to say, this idea does not bode well with the powers that be, nor the prevailing winds against any such equality movement for them.  To reveal how it all turns out would make me a spoiler, so mums the word which means you just have to see it.

The cast of this show is truly amazing as singers, dancers and actors!  There were cheers throughout the sold-out, opening night performance and more than one standing ovation, well deserved.  The songs and dance numbers are terrific.  My personal favorites are “You’re Timeless To Me” (Edna & Wilbur), a touching ballad to love; “I Know Where I’ve Been” (Motormouth), a haunting, powerful tribute to a woman standing up for herself; and the finale, “You Can’t Stop The Beat (ensemble), a rousing number that vows such changes to charge forward.  All the songs not only fit the story but were powerfully delivered!

Oglesby was a powerhouse, a belter of the first class!  Geraghty, equally almost blew the house down with her songs and dances, as well as the determined, iron-clad maiden that wanted to change the world.  Parker and Kelly were delightful as the parents which, to be honest, should be icons for ideals of parenthood for any family; and I do admit, I have a soft spot for Bainbridge, as she exemplified, in acting and song, what a faithful, best friend should be like.

Moore has a winner on his hands, as he has chosen the perfect cast and led them through an amazing production.  Like-wise, Miller (dances) and Coffin (music) are in top form, adding immeasurably to the power of this show.  This play also included an added inclusiveness, as some of the cast were physically challenged in some way. But, you know, I didn’t notice those “differences,” as they were all just terrific artists to me…and isn’t that the way it should be in Life, too?!  One final note, there is a magical moment at the end of the play, which brought a tear to my eye, but I won’t reveal it, so you just have to experience it for yourself.

I highly recommend this show—it’s a must-see!  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Black Sheep

Some of you may know by now, my favorite spot to eat, while in Ashland, is the above pub:  A place “Where You Belong!”  They have authentic English Pub food, as my Brit friend concurs, and ales and home-made desserts and soups.  They also have darts, neighborhood events, music, storytelling and a real fireplace for cool evenings.  They often stay open late for the theatre crowd, too.  And two of the staff members I’ve gotten to know and like over a few visits are Greg, who makes you feel welcome, whoever you are, and Lorah, a friendly, elfin lady, who will make you smile just to talk with her.  And you might even meet the owner, who is also a charmer.  Just look for the bright, red door on the Plaza, 51 N. Main St.  or call 541-482-6414.  If you do stop in, please tell them Dennis sent you

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