Landmark Community Theatre, Thomaston Opera House, Thomaston: Here’s a musical where every number is a big blast of a number. Most readers will quickly identify the name Marissa Follo Perry as the chubby girl who starred on Broadway in the smash hit musical “Hairspray.” Perry the actress is wearing a new hat in Thomaston. She’s the director of Landmark Community Theatre’s production of the award-winning “Hairspray,” the musical based on the film with the same name.
If anyone knows this musical inside out, it is Perry. Almost immediately you recognize the Broadway influence that Perry has personally brought to this Thomaston-based theater, located off Route 8. Having seen this musical on Broadway, I can attest to the fact that this is an exceptional theater presentation. That Perry is able to direct with Broadway caliber precision at a community theater is worthy of the highest accolades. Also worthy of high honors is music director John Dressel who brings orchestra and singers together seamlessly.
Of course, this is not a one-person production. A super talented cast and crew make the most of the skills needed for such a knockout musical. CJ Barber steps into the lead role of a very vivacious and plump Tracy Turnblad, the teenager with hair as high as her hopes. Barber brings her own signature to the character with a smile that lights up the stage. There is nothing that she can’t do well. She has Broadway belt, solid acting techniques, and the dance routines down pat.
Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to become a dancer on Baltimore’s popular Corny Collins Show. Set in the 1960s, the Collins Show will remind baby boomers of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand from the same era. Also singing and dancing into the spotlight is Tyler Caisse as Tracy’s heartthrob Link Larkin. Confident and chuck full of charm and talent, he wears the heartthrob description well.
A scene stealer, Jessica Rahrig’s performance as Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton can shake it up and steal a moment with a twist here and a bump there. The opening night audience never failed to whistle and whoop for this pigtailed performer.
Tracy not only finds fame in the Collins show, but becomes an activist and demands that the one day a week negro dance segment become integrated into the daily white Collins show. It is during school detention that Tracy befriends Seaweed played by Moses Beckett a dancer with such smooth moves that he could make Tommy Tune cheer. Kevin Pelkey and Roger Grace do a fine job as Tracy’s mom and dad respectively and Peter Bard as Corny Collins adds an extra dose of believability to his role.
Stephanie J. Varanelli Miles as Velma Von Tussle, the stage mom and producer of the Collins show, projects the powerful and egocentric woman with class. Jackie McInerney as the spoiled blonde beauty carries herself with plenty of poise. Another scene stealer is Chuck Stango, a favorite actor among local theater artists and audiences as well. He plays so many roles with so many quick changes that it’s amazing his wigs stay on. Diana Waller is another super talent in the show who consistently garners cat whistles and cheers. She is simply a remarkable talent. Dania Fedrick is a darling and Nikita Waller as Motormouth Maybelle tears the house down with her most memorable vocals. Also singing to nonstop applause is the trio called the Dynamites featuring Jasmine Clemons, Shannon Sullivan, and Tiffany Vinters. All the ensembles are stellar.
Too good to leave out, Carol Koumbaros, the costume designer and her assistants aced the wardrobe, while Jen Checovetes as the dance captain was true to the original choreography. Dan Checovetes’ scenic design, Robert Kwalick’s technical know how, Dylan Dineen’s lighting design, and Ian Jones’ sound design came together to create a smash hit production.
With a well deserved standing ovation, this production continues through May 14. Box office: 860- 283-8558.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]