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Hairspray Reminded Me That You Really Can’t Stop The Beat: A Theatre Review

By Michael P Coleman

Last night marked my return to live theatre after a COVID-inspired, three year absence.

For the record, it was my return to experiencing live theatre, not singing and dancing. Let’s leave that to the professionals.

While the wait was long, the raucous HAIRSPRAY made it worth it!

Broadway’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy phenomenon roared into Sacramento Wednesday night, as a part of its North American tour. It’ll play through Sunday, March 19 at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center in Sacramento, as a part of Broadway Sacramento’s Broadway On Tour Series.

While I’ve never seen the original 1988, John Waters-directed film from which the stage show is based, I’m a huge fan the 2007 remake. This new production ramped that fandom up by a Motown-inspired mile.

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“It’s a brand-new world we find ourselves in today,” reflected director Jack O’Brien, “and HAIRSPRAY is even more relevant than twenty years ago when it first burst onto the scene. With the renewed, refreshed energy of the unforgettable “Nina West” as Edna and a whole new generation of wildly talented kids across the board, we cannot wait to raise the various roofs once more with dance, joy, music, and that glorious, famous, energy-packed score!”

Choreographer Jerry Mitchell added, “HAIRSPRAY has always been about all of us dancing together! I am thrilled to welcome this new company of amazing talents to lead the way as we dance across America with a message of inclusion and hope, because ‘You really Can’t Stop The Beat!”

Believe it or not, those two guys’ comments are rife with understatements.

The cast is AMAZING. While I hate to mention specific actors for fear of omitting someone, I have to tell you that Lauren Johnson blew me — and the rest of the audience — away as “Motormouth Maybelle,” a role that I probably played in another life.

Craig First’s hilarious turn as “Corny Collins” stood up to James Marsden’s in the 2007 film. Anyone would have fallen in love with Charlie Bryant III’s “Seaweed J. Stubbs,” thanks to his singing, his dancing, and his face. Addison Garner’s “Velma Von Tussle” was both deliciously and despicably racist, and Niki Metcalf was adorable as Tracy Turnblad.

Despite a few minor technical issues that rendered some dialogue difficult to discern, the show’s vocal performances were standouts. That said, a few of the dance sequences were perfectly choreographed and executed. One in particular, during a dream sequence of sorts of Turnblad’s, is a stunner.

With my having not attended a live theatre show since COVID closed shows all over the world, I was more than a little tentative upon entering the theatre, even with a KN-95 ensconced in my pocket. I wield those masks now like I used to wield condoms: I keep one on me at all times, just in case. Like American Express, I don’t leave home without one.

By the time “Motormouth Maybelle” bellowed “I Know Where I’ve Been,” I’d realized that we’ve all settled into a world that’s learned to manage a variety of viruses, included COVID and racism. HAIRSPRAY also helped me understand that nothing can defeat our indomitable spirit.

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Hyperbole, or a bit of overstatement? Maybe, but that’s how I’m feeling this morning, almost two days later, as I listen to the show’s amazing soundtrack. Still. (Thanks, Apple Music!)

I doubt that neither writers Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan nor lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman realized that they’d help another writer in Sacramento realize that, come what may in life…

You Can’t Stop The Beat!!!

Information on Hairspray’s North American tour is at Tickets are very limited for the balance of Hairspray’s run in Sacramento, so get yours now!

Information on Broadway Sacramento is at

Information on freelance writer Michael P Coleman is at


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