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Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
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Indianapolis, IN
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Hairspray at Indianapolis-Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre Delivers Big a-ha Moments

by Rita Kohn
August 26, 2019
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
317-872-9664
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
We come anticipating big hair and a barrage of wisecracks; we leave animated by a big heart and a widened world view. As a musical comedy set in 1960’s Baltimore, "Hairspray’s" timelessness spins off the thread of a saying attributed to Rabbi Hillel, who was born in Babylon in 110 BCE and died in Jerusalem in 10 CE.

Tracy Turnblad’s motivation is Hillel’s timeless dictum: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

From the top, non-stop high energy by this thoroughly engaging cast sweeps us into the whirl of TV station WZZT and an awakening cognizance of who actually tunes in to the popular 1960s Corny Collins Show. Maybe the view from 2003, when the musical walked off with eight Tony Awards from a field of 13 nominations, affords a clearer perspective of how one teen, who understands ‘segregation’ via ‘you’re fat,’ and ‘you’re not welcome,’ viz ‘you’re from the wrong side of town,’ can can stand up both to a long-in-tooth Baltimore beauty queen who produces the show, AND the audacious owner of the R&B record shop providing an alternate space for teens of color to gather and ’strut their stuff.’ Tracy is undaunted in her pursuit to get what she wants—a chance to prove her talent, an opportunity to succeed, acceptance of her physical presence. Yet, she knows she is not an entity of one. If, and when, a door opens for her positive pursuits, that door has to be wide enough to let others, equally worthy, walk in alongside her.

Interwoven into the over-the-top antics is the kind of wisdom valued at all times, yet so severely lacking by political leadership and much of our population right now. With the backing of show host Corny Collins, Tracy uses her fought for cognizance to rally support for a newer, better city where all are welcome to participate for the greater good.

What we witness is a police force in cahoots with small-minded people, a population frightened by the abilities of others, a system out of sync with what this country is supposed to be about. Sitting in the audience, listening, watching, absorbing, I felt as though I was back in midst of the recent meeting in downtown Indianapolis when a select leadership was exhorting us to get busy making Indianapolis an ‘inclusive city’— a caring community—not a fearful clutch of self and ‘other’ haters. What’s amazing and hurtful is the reminder of a ’Negro Day’ that has been part of our nation’s idea of ‘liberty and justice for all.’ It wasn’t just a Baltimore abomination. Check out what originally transpired with Riverside Amusement Park on Indy’s near northwest side, before it became an ‘open’ neighborhood park, and just this summer debuted as the homesite of IndyShakes presenting a blockbuster "Hamlet" for an audience just wanting to absorb good theatre.

All this history and recent activity came with me to this emboldened "Hairspray" performance at Beef&Boards Dinner Theatre on August 24, 2019. What an audience member brings to a performance is that essential dimension for a production’s viability as arts-to-uplift. What gives Tracy the edge to win a spot on the Corny Collins Show is her willingness and ability to integrate the dance moves from ‘the other’ within the routines she has memorized from faithfully tuning in to the Corny Collins Show. Vintage now, that set on-stage was the latest must have way back then. [When I got home I checked to make sure my ’60s tv set was in place; it still works so why replace it?]

Eddie Curry is directing this cast with a freer hand than what I’ve witnessed in much of his other work, and the result is a compelling, dimensional projection of individual characters and their inter-relationships. One of the perfectly-pitched ’ouch-moments’ hits us with the impeccably-crafted Von Tussle mother-daughter relationship playing on the command of ‘come.’ Curry allows the various sets of parent-child relationships to reveal equal insights. As the secondary theme of Hairspray, it never-the-less could be the significant take-away leading a red-tie Indiana audience to recognize that what connects and divides us, what makes us caring or uncaring, what leads us to striving or giving up, starts at home and grows or diminishes us—as an individual, a family, a population. Seeing yourself as Amber and Velma, or Tracy and Edna, or Penny and Prudy, or Maybelle and Little Inez, can be a growth moment.

Adee David delivers a fearless Tracy, Daniel Klingler is an endearing Edna, charmingly playing off Eddie Curry as Wilbur; they’re the only nuclear family on stage. Sarah Daniels and Amy Decker project the kind of mother-daughter audiences love to hate-unless you of course ARE them. Nikki Miller and Suzanne Stark are the amazing chameleons, hiding a lot of luster until their break-out moments.

Tara Conner Jones, returning to B&B from her stand-out performance in The Buddy Holly Story, again stops the show —twice; first with “Big, Blonde & Beautiful” summing up the essential theme of Hairspray as the act one closing blockbuster. It’s who you think you are, not what others project on you, that makes you simultaneously singular and essential to community. Jones again brings the audience to its feet with “I Know Where I’ve Been,” as the gospel/blues/truth-telling ballad wrapped up as a repeating historic struggle, and Jones makes us own it. In both instances the character, Motormouth Maybelle, avers it’s what’s inside your body, mind, soul that makes you worthy, or not. That’s the core-value equally reflected by from Carlotta Victoria as Little Inez and Antonio LeRoy King portraying the self-assured, dancing phenom ‘Seaweed J. Stubbs.’

Nate Willey returns to B&B as Link Larkin, showing us what it takes for a teen-ager to grow into a caring, compassionate human being, right in line with Matthew C. Branic taking us into his power-place to make a significant community change. Jeff Stockberger changes suits for dual portrayals, and everyone in the ensemble takes on a variety of roles, delivering Ron Morgan’s choreographic spunk and sparkle and Kristy Templet’s impeccable musical direction. Applause went to: Elizabeth Adable, Devin Kessler, Terica Marie, Grant Benedict, Shelbi Berry, Eric Best, Danard Daniels Jr., Emily Jordan, Anna Lasbury, Logan Moore, Trey Paris and Scott Van Wye.

As always, lighting, costume, scenic and sound design add excellent production values.

"Hairspray," book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan; music by Marc Shaiman; lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, runs through October 6, 2019.

Up next: "Little Shop of Horrors: the musical," Oct. 10-Nov. 17, 2019
Tickets: 317-872-9664; beefandboards.com
Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), center, introduces herself as the newest dancer on the Corny Collins Show in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), center, introduces herself as the newest dancer on the Corny Collins Show in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), center, sings “Good Morning Baltimore” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), center, sings “Good Morning Baltimore” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Motormouth Maybelle (Tarra Conner Jones), center, sings a powerful “I Know Where I’ve Been” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Motormouth Maybelle (Tarra Conner Jones), center, sings a powerful “I Know Where I’ve Been” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Link Larkin (Nate Willey), front, sings “It Takes Two” to Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), right, in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Link Larkin (Nate Willey), front, sings “It Takes Two” to Tracy Turnblad (Adee David), right, in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


The cast performs “Welcome To The ‘60s” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The cast performs “Welcome To The ‘60s” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Edna Turnblad (Daniel Klingler), left, and Wilbur Turnblad (Eddie Curry) sing “You’re Timeless To Me” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Edna Turnblad (Daniel Klingler), left, and Wilbur Turnblad (Eddie Curry) sing “You’re Timeless To Me” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Hairspray, now on stage through Oct. 6. Broadway’s big, bold, beautiful hit won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig

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