Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You Can't Stop the Beat!

Show: Hairspray
Venue: Neil Simon Theatre
Date: August 29, 2007

As a sort of a "welcome back" gift, my aunt bought tickets so we could all go see Hairspray. I had wanted to see the movie (I super love James Marsden... heh heh heh), but I had wanted to see the musical first. So this was the perfect opportunity!

Anyway, the line was to get in was stupidly long. I don't understand. Why does it matter if you get in earlier versus later? It's not like you can get a better seat, nor is it like a baseball game where you can stalk players. Perhaps those people can't find anything better to do in New York City? Har har.

Our seats were decent. We sat about midway in the mezzanine, and you know, most seats in the theatres have a good view.

The show itself is very colorful and bright and happy and dance-y (not a word). While those shows aren't really my favorites (I'm more of a singer myself and thus prefer shows with more musical content and strong scores), I did enjoy this show. The show touches on some more weighty themes (no pun intended) but that's gaudily covered up with lights, smiles, and flashy dance moves.

I found the show started to lag at the end of Act One. Never really a good sign when you start wondering when the intermission is... but most of it was really strong. The acts, I felt, were a little too uneven. A lot of dancing and singing in the first act... not as much in the second. The whole jail sequence seemed slightly pointless to me, but it added more drama...? Like everyone was in jail and then they weren't...?

When I was entering the theatre, I already knew that Ashley Parker Angel (of O-Town fame) was in the musical playing the part of Link Larkin. What I didn't know was that Lance Bass (of N*SYNC fame) had also joined the cast. I noticed the billing as I was waiting in line to pick up our tickets at Will Call. But I was so utterly surprised. APA and Lance Bass?! Invasion of the former boy banders!!!!

Surprisingly, Ashley Parker Angel was one of my favorites. Why is this surprising? Well, mostly because five years ago, or whenever O-Town was popular, I used to make fun of him a lot. And I made fun of my friend Amanda who lurved him. Actually, I made fun of anyone who did. Not out of envy or anything... I guess I just never saw the appeal. He's too... I don't know... effeminate for me? I mean, besides the looks, his name is Ashley Parker Angel. (I think I found it hilarious that a boy could be named Ashley... Oh, give me a break, I was 13.)

I did, however, enter the theatre with an open mind. I have a friend, Diana, who adores Ashley Parker Angel (Jesus, that's a long name to type) and adores Hairspray. She had talked so often about him and meeting him and the show, I admit, I was curious.

He did an amazing job. He constantly caught my eye. For one thing, he's so tall, and his limbs are all so long that it's just hard to miss him. But mostly, he just seemed so... happy! He also had this charisma that made you want to watch him and constantly follow him. He was also a really good dancer (at least to me. I am not a dance expert by any means.) and a good singer. His boy band background was perfect for Link Larkin, the wholesome teen idol. He fit his part extremely well. His acting was... I dunno, slightly lacking, I think, but in a musical like this, you can kinda get away with it.

Lance, on the other hand, was underwhelming. Not that I was ever a fan of Lance or N*SYNC. (I was a BSB girl myself. Not that I listen to them anymore... *hides BSB CDs*) I just feel like he wasn't really right for the part of Corny. By the way, what kind of terrible name is that? Honestly...

I also enjoyed the performances by Tevin Campbell (Seaweed), Niki Scalera (Penny), and Darlene Love (Motormouth). I actually really liked Penny's character. She was one of my favorites. Seaweed had a great part, and Tevin did a spectacular job, though I think at times his mic was skitzing out. There were times where it was really hard to hear what he was singing, and other times, when he was the lead singer, the background vocals drowned him out. Darlene Love was absolutely astounding.

Truthfully, I didn't care much for either Shannon Durig, who played Tracy, nor Ashley Spencer, who played Amber. (I wonder if it ever got confusing during rehearsals... Ashley come over here! No, the other Ashley!) To no fault of their own, really. They did great jobs and performed their roles well, but... personal preference, I suppose. I didn't really like Shannon's voice all too much, though I recognize a good voice when I hear one. As for Ashley... maybe I just didn't like Amber's character. Ashley was really squeaky. (I'm not a fan of the squeaky.)

As for the show itself... like I said, I enjoyed it. There was nothing else that really called out to me (i.e. costumes, sets, etc) but the overall package was good. The story dealt with stereotypes and segregation, but in a very lighthearted manner... almost flippant, really. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I realize it's a show and an escape from reality and people want to be entertained, not depressed, but the way the show ended in such a nice, neat, little package bothered me. As if the cheating, lying, skank of a producer like Velma von Tussle and her brainless daughter Amber could change just because of a five minute dance sequence, after they spent the entire musical trying to thwart Tracy? Mreh. It's a musical, I guess... not reality.

The bits with Edna and Wilbur were great. John C. Vogt and Jerry Mathers improv'd a lot of stuff, and the audience just ate it up. There was a lot of chemistry between them... er... you know what I mean.

I wish we saw more of Corny's character. He seems to have been really unexplored, and I feel like he could have been very interesting.

I loved Seaweed and Penny together. So cute. Their duet together in "Without Love" is one of the highlights of the show, in my opinion.

All in all, a good show and another wonderful experience on Broadway. I can't wait to see the movie! Hmmm... maybe a movie/show comparison is in order if I see it? At any rate, if you have some spare cash... and even if you don't!... go see Hairspray. I recommend it to everyone!