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Theater Review: Marquette's 'Hairspray' a Toe-Tapping, Uplifting Time

Notre Dame High School journalist reviews Marquette High School's production of "Hairspray."

by Carolina deLegarreta of Notre Dame High School

In the midst of troubling times, it’s a wonderful reminder that people of any shape and size can shine. production of Hairspray highlighted this belief with golden voices that made the '60s feel very welcoming indeed.

The beloved story of Hairspray debuted as a film in 1988, directed by John Waters. The film was received positively and later adapted as a Tony Award winning Broadway musical in 2002, with songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Perhaps the most well-known version is the 2007 film, with a star-studded cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, and John Travolta. The plot follows Tracy Turnblad, a teenage girl who dreams of fame. Through a stroke of luck and sheer talent, she finds herself dancing on her favorite local TV show, where she breaks down barriers regarding weight and race.

There were moments of inconsistency from the ensemble in Marquette's production. However, the cast stepped it up so that, by the last note, feet were tapping and hands were clapping along to the action onstage.

Gabby Mancuso was bubbly and likable as Tracy Turnblad. Her duet with Link Larkin, played by PJ Palmer, in the romantic ballad “Without Love” was sweet and believable. Their chemistry was evident, which made their onstage relationship genuinely enjoyable. Palmer’s tenor voice handled the varying notes beautifully, showcasing his incredible range and technique.

The true gem of the show was Edna Turnblad, played by Will Moore. Following in the tradition of casting a male to play Tracy’s mother, Moore excelled at delivering comical one-liners and embodying the big persona needed for Edna. Another character whom was just as entertaining was Tracy’s best friend Penny, played by Jordan Manno. Her facial expressions and gestures were just big enough without being over the top, with a presence almost as large as her hairdo. Perhaps the best voice in the show came from Motormouth Maybelle, played by Courtnie Henson, whose soulful tone during “I Know Where I’ve Been” made the character’s emotions tangible and heart-wrenching.

Backing the cast was a complicated sound system consisting of 24 body mics. Though they were distributed evenly, there were noticeable cracks and pops throughout the show, particularly when the leads would hit a high note. Some costumes were out-of-sync with the time period of the early 1960s, with hints of later decades in the clothing. However, the decision to dress the Corny Collins Council Members in shades of gray to represent black and white TV was very creative and original.

Wonderful harmonies and comic relief made Marquette’s production of Hairspray lively and entertaining. Spirits lifted along with the bubbles launched during the last scene, so that the audience was left smiling as the show came to an end.

This review was submitted by The Cappies, a program that trains high school theater and journalism students as critics. The students then attend shows at other schools, write reviews and publish those reviews in local news outlets. At the end of the year, student critics vote for awards that are presented at a formal Cappies Gala.

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