Flawless Hairspray at Country Playhouse

The set up: Country Playhouse opens its 55th season (!) in blockbuster mode. This 2003 Tony Award-winning musical about the integration of a TV dance show similar to American Bandstand is a '60s dreamland. A bright cartoon full of tolerance, easy laughs, and kickin' dance routines, Hairspray's main characters -- teenager Tracy Turnblad and her dowdy mother Edna -- put the kibosh on slim, anorexic leading ladies. They are industrial-strength size, and two of the many reasons for the show's cheery message of acceptance.

The execution: Pick a color, any color, and before long it'll appear somewhere on stage, in costume or set design, during this kaleidoscopic, exuberantly exciting production. The vibe -- so '60s -- extends through the whole show and exudes from the sprightly cast, from principals to chorus, as if everyone sprouts rainbows. You will, too, it's so infectious.

The knockoff score by Marc Shaiman, with lyrics co-written by Scott Wittman and book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, is lovingly but safely adapted from the much more chintzy 1988 John Waters movie that starred low-rent drag queen Divine. Broadway sanitized the muddy Waters and made it safe for matinee ladies to bop along to the Madison, the Mashed Potato, and the Frug while swallowing the message of integration. CP's flawlessly performed show moves.

The kids on the TV show just want to dance, so why can't everyone -- blacks and whites -- dance together, says innocent, ample-sized Tracy Turnblad (Kalin Coates, a fireplug of energy and voice), who knows a thing or two about being the butt of high school jokes. In this feel-good world, she gets her guy (silky smooth Aaron Boudreaux, a real-life Broadway musical star in the making); sees agoraphobic mom Edna (Danny Seibert, whose basso voice and wry comic timing fill out that 54 EEE brassiere) blossom into her own Macy's Thanksgiving Day float; and helps goofy friend Penny (Hayley Beiermeister, a wily scene stealer) and beyond-the-tracks Seaweed (Donté Wright, slick and boneless) find color-blind love. The ensemble is pitch perfect, Ron Jones's direction razor-sharp, Daria James and Erin Roleto's choreography knockout, Carl Russell's sets bright and crisp, Reba Kochersperger's and Linda Clark's towering, wrap-around wigs have their own particular characters, and Stephen Jones's musical direction gets everyone moving, audience included.

The verdict: Country Playhouse's Hairspray is teased and coiffed to perfection. Like the song says, "Big, Blonde & Beautiful."

Through July 30. Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury. 713-467-4497.

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover