Hairspray | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The future sure turned out weird. At the beginning of the 1980s, John Waters redefined bad taste and trashy movies with the help of over-sized drag queen Divine. They ended the decade with the high-camp Hairspray (1988), based loosely on real people, real places and real events of racism and anti-racism, plus Waters' trademark, er, indelicacies. By 2002 a smash-hit musical, Hairspray is now the epitome of family fun, its double entendres tame by current standards, and the role originated by Divine a model of maternal solicitude.

Directed and choreographed by Barry Ivan, the Pittsburgh CLO production has nary a strand out of place, with Hairspray veterans in most of the leading roles, the budding talents of the resident corps, and the production values for which the CLO is justly acclaimed. It is impossible to be too lavish, too colorful or too over-the-top for Hairspray. (For those keeping score, the Broadway production won eight Tony Awards, with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan.)

At the center of our tale is feisty Tracy Turnblad (the full-voiced Katrina Rose Dideriksen), battling weight problems, teen-age romance and Jim Crow laws. This is 1962, in Baltimore (still riven by racial tension today), and white kids want to dance to the music of black America, with the moves of black American kids -- and even with their fellow Baltimoreans of all hues. Integrating a local American Bandstand-like show is the noble goal of Tracy and her buddies. Particularly notable are a hot-moving Rashad Naylor as a fellow detention detainee; Niki Scalera blossoming as the best friend also finding first love; and Michael Kadin Craig bursting with sincerity as Tracy's heartthrob.

Of course, the scene-stealer is Paul Vogt, as Tracy's Mom (oh, Fountains of Wayne are in my head), transforming from domestic frump to fashion goddess. With Jim J. Bullock as her adoring if somewhat manic hubby, the couple personify loving, supportive parents, if not exactly in the "traditional family values" mode. More applause to music director Tom Helm and to the design team: William Ivey Long (costumes), David Rockwell (sets), John McLaine (lighting), production technical supervisor John R. Edkins, et al.

It's fluffy, it's fun, it's gorgeous, darling. Anyone who would find anything to complain about in this Hairspray would be unlikely to come in the first place.


Hairspray continues through Sun., Aug. 1. Pittsburgh CLO at the Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or

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