Nancy Sasso Janis
The headline on the newspaper-esque program blared "Naugatuck Valley Community College Presents 'HAIRSPRAY.'" Mixed with the typical program stuff were academic pieces that researched "a time of change - the 60's." The sixties came alive in this high-energy production presented on NVCC's impressive Mainstage Theater.
Burton Tedesco, theater instructor at NVCC and his wife Marjorie, costume designer, worked with the students since auditions began in November. He writes that theater creates a shared experience "which celebrates our humanity...This celebration extends to Naugatuck Valley Community College, an institution that is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The selection of this show was, in part, to recognize this milestone." NVCC should be proud that their theater celebrates this anniversary with such a fine production.
This cast was 43 students strong, with seventeen principal roles, the council kids, the detention kids, three great dancers in "The Dynamites," and the ensemble. Many of them made their debuts in this show and if they were a bit tentative, they knew their choreography and looked like they were having the time of their lives.
The director was clearly as passionate as the actors with which he worked. I appreciated how he had the students enter through the house and stand in the front aisles.The hugging after the curtain call was an indication of how much his students appreciated all his efforts.
Edward Montoya was adorable as the owner of the plus size shop named Mr. Pinky and Matheus Bertocco was scary as the school principal. WAMS grad Olivia Conforti was commanding as the helicopter parent of Penny. Lynnise Stephen was terrific as Inez and Kenrico Ferreira, in his first musical, had amazing moves as her brother Seaweed. Theater major Eric Boyd owned the stage as Motormouth Maybelle.
The talented Watertown HS grad Christopher Varanko (Leap of Faith) played the heartthrob Link Larkin to the hilt. Marisa Caron played the awful producer of the Corny Collins show and Alexa Campagna (another WAMS graduate) was her equally hateful daughter Amber. Adrianna Varnako was superb as Penny Pingleton. Zachary Cipriano was believable as show host Corny.
Tracy Turnblad was brought to life by Stephanie Michelle Warner. She sang and danced well and had the bubbly personality to boot. As her mother Edna, theater vet (at a very young age) Peter Bard was hilarious. Tracy's father Wilbur was equally as effectively performed by Daniel Morrow. These two were quite the pair and had the audience in the palms of their hands.
This set was designed by Bill Cone, as they have been for the last 40 years at NVCC (formerly Mattatuck Community College.) It was large and attractive and more than what I would have expected at a college production. It was beautifully lit by resident Lighting Designer Jonathan Curns. Mrs. Tedesco's costumes were pure sixties and looked especially great as the students executed the high-power choreography by NVCC Dance Instructor Megan Boyd. I loved each and every one of the production numbers and couldn't possibly pick a favorite.
The excellent musicians in the pit were directed by Musical Director Dr. Andrew Ardizzoia, a first year instructor at NVCC who was one of the most caring conductors that I have ever had the pleasure to watch.
Congratulations to this fine theater group on an impressive and fun production. My one recommendation is that they strive to advertise their shows more widely in the future so the public can see great shows at an affordable price.