Hairspray at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre: As close to Broadway as we’ll get – review by GRAHAM HICKS

Hairspray – The Broadway Musical
Mayfield Dinner Theatre, Doubletree by Hilton West Edmonton
16615 109 Ave., Edmonton
780.483.4051
www.mayfieldtheatre.ca/tickets/

April 18 to June 15, 2014

A theatre review by Graham Hicks

Hairspray is as good a musical theatre show as has ever trod the boards of the Mayfield Dinner Theatre – and that’s saying a lot, because the theatre has been open since 1975.

It’s a given that Hairspray is an excellent musical to begin with – given the quirky 1988 movie turned into 2002’s Broadway hit musical, which in turn became the smash movie musical of 2007. The songs are the best, the plot actually has some sociological meat of 1960s race relations and an iconic nod to the notion that skinny white socialite girls don’t always win against the outsiders, the Broadway/musical choreography is top-notch.

But the wonder, the magic is that the Mayfield Dinner Theatre has produced a Broadway level show on its stage!  Okay, 99.99% Broadway quality.

A couple of magical ingredients are at work here.

You can’t do a proper Hairspray without a fantastic Tracy Turnblad – and finding the qualities of that character, a young, short, plump singin’ and dancin’ actress with tons of energy and the ability to carry a show as its star, is a tall order indeed.

Fortunately for the Mayfield Dinner Theatre, Canadian actress Stephanie Pitsiladis was available, and Pitsiladis has owned the role of Tracey in Canada for some 10 years, having played Tracey in at least four professional productions. So we had a fine Tracey.

Perhaps even more fortunate was that native Edmontonian Tracey Flye – with a suitcase full of experience directing and choreographing top-level musical theatre on and off Broadway – was happy to come back home to direct and choreograph Hairspray, a show that she’d done before as well.

I suspect Flye went through her contacts and called a ton of great actors who obviously love to work with her wherever she’d be, including Edmonton locked in a long drawn-out winter!

What’s absolutely extraordinary is the talent of this mind-boggling array of 25 – 25! – triple-threat actors. And how all this talent has been woven into a singing, dancing, acting tour de force!

There’s Pitsiladis as Tracy, Sheldon Bergstrom channeling John Travolta as Tracy’s mom Edna Turnblad, the unbelievable dancing and elasticity of J. Cameron Barnett as Seaweed, Larry Mannell chewing the scenery as Edna’s mom and Tracy’s dad Wilbur, the presence, strut and growling alto of Aurianna Angelique as Motormouth Maybelle, and Scott Walters and Timothy Gledhill as the gee-whiz bobby sox entertainers Corny Collins and Link.

Music we tend to take for granted at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre, as resident artistic/musical director and band leader Van Wilmott is hugely talented in that department. But this time round he has 25 of the finest musical-theatre voices in Canada and the USA to play with, and the musical quality of this show sets the Mayfield bar higher than it’s ever been before.

What’s so apparent is that this cast is truly enjoying the show, enjoying each other, and singing their hearts over a juicy eight-week run, with time to settle in and find all of Hairsprays intricate rhythms in more than the music.

I don’t think I’ve seen a musical in Edmonton at such an exuberant level in years. 

Combined with the Mayfield Dinner Theatre’s new, revitalized and revived buffet menu, it’s a night out not to be missed.