Review: Newbury Musical Theatre Company's 'Hairspray

Nancy Sasso Janis

Newbury Musical Theatre Company presented their eighth summer production this weekend in the Pomperaug High School auditorium with a wonderful production of ‘Hairspray.’

Director Jim  Tornatore writes that the story of ‘Hairspray’ centers around a fictional TV dance show that featured all white teen dancers except for one day each month. It is based on John Waters’ memories of ‘The Buddy Dear Show,’ which was a local Baltimore show that ran from 1957 to 1964 but was taken off the air because the show was not able to integrate black and white dancers. Thankfully ‘The Corny Collins Show’ in ‘Hairspray’ has a different ending thanks to our hero named Tracy Turnblad.

Mr. Tornatore and his creative team cast some of the most talented teens from area high schools and some college students in the leading roles and made sure that they could shine in every scene. The young ladies that made up the ensemble and the Record Shop Kids all looked like they belonged in the early sixties and danced well the choreography by Lizabeth Skalski (with some assistance by Stephanie Tornatore and the director.) There were many sound issues unfortunately, but the set looked great, moved well for the stage hands, and was nicely lit. Musical Director was Ms. Tornatore and the pit orchestra played the various types of musical numbers very well under her direction. Gloria von Oy and Vintage House Costumes made the characters look their sixties best.

Newtown High School junior Ajene Arokium and Olyvia Shaw sang soulfully as The Dynamites. Ms. Shaw will be performing in the upcoming New Arts production of ‘Liberty Smith.’ Michael Vollmer was both the school principal and a prison guard, while Pomperaug senior Marissa Proulx played the gym teacher and the prison matron. Nonnewaug graduate Alicia Napolitano was the overbearing mother Prudy Pingleton and Anthony Contento was a funny Mr. Pinky at the Saturday performance.

The Council Kids included Pomperaug HS graduate Nokomis Leaman-Logsden, Kevin Campoverde, Daniel Koobatian, WAMS sophomore Julia Rocchio, Jamin Mucherino, Pomperaug senior Kathleen Stango, Shane Christopher and ballet dancer and Trinity College sophomore Maggie Powderly.

Payge Shaw played the sassy Little Inez; this Ms. Shaw will appear in the upcoming New Arts ‘Lion King, Jr.’ as Sarabi. Pomperaug graduate Tom Marinelli played show host Corny Collins on Saturday. Andrew Lavish was a loveable Wilbur Turnblad and WAMS rising senior Nolan Cummings nearly brought down the house as the big and beautiful mother of Tracy, Edna Turnblad. WAMS alum Alizae Powell was another house flattener in the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Tiny by mighty, this young lady can sing! “I Know Where I’ve Been” was the standout that is should be.

WAMS graduate Gerald Mullings was an excellent Seaweed J. Stubbs and sang up a storm. Kathryn Cavanaugh, a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy of New York City, was perfectly perplexed as Penny Pingleton and her transformation at the end perfectly positive. The von Tussle ladies in this production were played by Kristen Scheuermann as Velma and WCSU junior Lauren Jane Bell as her “snarky” daughter Amber and both turned in wonderful performances in these tricky roles.

Two-time Halo award winner Thomas Bergamo, who will be heading to WCSU for a BFA in Musical Theater, was smooth and down to earth as the heartthrob Link Larkin who makes Tracy “Hear the Bells.” MacKenzie Huneke was the ultimate Tracy Turnblad. She was bubbly and loveable as she brought her big voice to her dream role. Ms. Huneke is a WAMS graduate and will be attending SUNY Purchase in the fall to study Playwriting/Screenwriting. I am confident that we will be hearing from her in the future.

I really enjoyed this production with it’s young and talented cast. Only three roles were double cast and everyone from the sixth grade student to the adults were clearly having a great time on the Pomperaug stage. Many teens from area high schools came out of Saturday to cheer for their classmates and they definitely cheered at the final curtain.

The final performance of Newbury Musical Theatre Company’s ‘Hairspray’ will be 2:00 pm at Pomperaug and tickets are available at the door.

Pictured: Members of the cast of 'Hairspray' Photos by Newbury Musical Theatre Company