Big hair, big girls, big fun at Midtown Arts Center’s “Hairspray”

Tracy & Link Hairspray
Tracy & Link in "Hairspray" at MIdTown Arts Center. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

Fort Collins, Colorado is a long way from Baltimore, Maryland and the race wars of the sixties, so will audiences connect with Midtown Arts Center’s current production? I believe they will because the themes of “Hairspray” are timeless, the music is catchy, and the cast is unforgettable.

Midtown Arts Center, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, has a well-appointed, 236 seat dinner theater, as well as a banquet room where they host a weekly show of The Dinner Detective and  private events.

I started out the evening with a Peyton Place After Midnight, a drink from their specialty menu. The vodka, cucumber and lemon juice combo garnished with blue cheese stuffed olives was sweet and salty, and I call it “happiness in a martini glass.”

There were some changeups to the dinner menu since our last trip, including a new upgrade of Yellow Fin Tuna served over a citrus coconut risotto cake and drizzled with cilantro lime coconut reduction. The risotto was perfection, but the tuna was overcooked.

My husband ordered the Chicken a la Tang from the standard entrée menu included in the ticket price. His dish had a fresh summery taste, and we both noted that our dishes were much more beautifully plated than in the past.

At intermission we paired a strawberry rhubarb pie with coffee. The crusty outer layer complemented the sweetness of berry and tartness of the rhubarb. We highly recommend trying this house made specialty.

And now on to the play, because the play’s the thing at dinner theater, and without a doubt “Hairspray” is the best all-round performance I’ve seen at Midtown Arts Center to-date. The cast is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, as the director recruited in New York for this particular show.

Co-ed Dance Scene Hairspray
Some of the cast of "Hairspray" were recruited from New York. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

“Hairspray” is the story of an overweight teen girl name Tracy Tumblad (Maggie Walker) who dreams of being on a television dance program called, “The Corny Collins Show.” This musical is set in Baltimore during the race tensions of the sixties, and “The Corny Collins Show” features a cast of pretty, skinny, white kids.

Tracy is a spunky character whose naivety is actually her strength. She spends her time in school detention learning dance moves from the black kids, and when she ends up being cast on “The Corny Collins Show,” the real fun begins. Actually, the entire musical is fun, from the opening song, “Good Morning Baltimore,” to the company’s closing rendition of “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

It’s hard to point to just a few highlights in this show, because every musical dance number in Midtown’s production of “Hairspray” is truly wonderful. The talent of the cast is apparent with each toe tap, every hip gyration and every note.

Edna Tumblad is played by Michael Lasris, yes, Michael. Cross dressing seems to be a trend in the last couple musicals I’ve seen (see my review of Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s Cinderella here). Lasris, as the no nonsense mother of Tracy, is a scene stealer in this role, as is Kelsey Hopkins who plays Penny. Once again, Ryane Nicole Studivant, as Motormouth Maybelle, proves to Midtown audiences that she’s a powerhouse singer.

Girls dance scene Hairspray
Michael Lasris stealing the scene in "Hairspray" at Midtown Arts Center. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

On my last trip to Midtown, I was unimpressed with the set for “Sound of Music.” This time around, I am happy to report that they’ve created a clever set that is as dynamic as the musical. It’s bright and cheerful, just like the onstage costumes and big hair.

“Hairspray” is now playing through September 1, 2012.  You can purchase tickets at ADinnerTheater.com and be sure to join Midtown Arts Center on Facebook here.

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