Youngstown Playhouse Boffo Hairspray

Hairspray will go down as one of the Youngstown Playhouse’s best-ever productions. It has always done consistently good to very good community theater.  Since its operation was taken over by Jim McClellan, there has been a noticeable uptick in the quality of the productions and its promotions.  But I raised my eyebrows when I saw it was performing Hairspray.  It is not an easy production.  It fields a large cast.  It is a high-performance musical which goes non-stop from beginning to end filled with complicated choral pieces, close harmonies, and large dance numbers.  Its characters are iconic.  And the lead is on stage for almost the entire piece.  Last night I was blown away.

I want to apologize because I lost my program and cannot give the names of this outstanding cast.  So I will make references to the character names.  Where they found their Tracey Turnblad I don’t know, but this gal performed non-stop at sustained energy levels like I have never seen in a non-professional…and she was good!!   Edna Turnblad was played by Robert Joki who is well-known to those who do community theater in the area…perfection.  Seaweed and Penny were spot-on.  And Motormouth Maybelle could give Queen Latifah a run for her money.  I don’t intend to slight the rest of the cast by not mentioning them…because ALL OF THEM performed at levels I have not seen at the Playhouse before.

There were many memorable moments.  The audience erupted when Seaweed broke into the “Run and Tell That.”  Motormouth’s “I Know Where I’ve Been” brought the house down and gave me chills from my head to my toes.  For my money…”You’re Timeless to Me” is one of the greatest love songs ever written that acknowledges all of our imperfections…and Edna and Wilbur nailed it last night with a tear in my eye.

Everything from the costumes to the lighting to an outstanding pit band that sounded like there were twenty when there were only five to the unbelievable choreography (the synced tap dancing during the opening number of the second act is particularly notable) to the impeccable timing of the entire production demonstrates once again that this area is brimming over with talent.  The Youngstown Playhouse is alive and well and running on steroids.  Good Job!!!  Its run is limited.  Call now for tickets as last night’s performance was sold out.

Mark G. Mangie