I saw Hairspray today at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, and it was so much fun. I love the music of Hairspray (I’ve had the soundtrack for ages, and I saw the musical in Philadelphia a few years ago), and the Chan’s production was great. The cast was really terrific — I don’t think there was a single weak point — and I loved the costuming. The effect the color schemes of costumes can have on the overall show fascinates me.
Seaweed and Motormouth Maybelle have always been my favorite characters in Hairspray (with Penny and Tracy generally being my second favorites), and the actors in the Chan’s production were excellent. Two of my favorite songs in the show are actually two of their respective songs, “Run and Tell That” and “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Kasono Mwanza, the actor who played Seaweed, was phenomenal. Seriously. (Also, sidenote, I love the purple suit. It makes me kind of want one, except for the fact that I barely wear the suits I currently own.)
Aimee K. Bryant played Motormouth Maybelle, and she was fantastic. I liked how, unlike in the recent movie version (where, incidentally, I thought Queen Latifa gave a great performance), Motormouth Maybelle used “I Know Where I’ve Been” to rally people and remind them that the struggle for racial equality will take time: they can’t give up simply because they tried once and failed. It seemed a stronger message than in the movie, where it was used on the way to their first attempt to integrate the show.
I became interested in seeing Hairspray at Chanhassen because I read an article in the Star Tribune a while back about Mwanza and his role in Hairspray. Mwanza seemed so interesting. He moved to Minnesota from Zambia when he was ten. People in the article described his talent in such glowing terms, and the Artistic Director of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres was quoted as saying, “He’s a little shy and polite. Even the people in the kitchen tell me he hugs everyone,” which I just think is adorable. So, I wanted to see him perform, and I was so impressed.
After we’d bought the tickets (I went with my family for the holidays), I realized that the character of Amber was to be played by someone from my former high school. She played Kim McAfee, one of the leads in Bye Bye Birdie, which was the very first musical I was in during high school. Watching her in the show was interesting because, while she did a great job (CityPages thinks she was terrific), my mind kept flashing back to her in high school and middle school. This little thirteen-year-old prancing around the stage for the middle school’s Christmas show. How time flies.
I haven’t seen a show at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in quite some time (although I spent a week the summer after I graduated from high school attending a musical theatre day camp there, which was a lot of fun), but I’m really glad that I managed to see this show. Hairspray is such a fun, high-energy show (complicated thoughts about the “The Big Doll House”/jail scene aside), and everyone in the cast really was wonderful.