REVIEW: Hairspray

Cue the Lights… Cue the Music… Cue the Hairspray!

Last night, audiences were treated to the opening night of an electrifying performance of “Hairspray” at the Ordway. This timeless musical explores the struggle for inclusion during a pivotal decade of integration. Set against the backdrop of 1960s Baltimore, the production entertained the audience with an energetic cast who sang and danced the night away with unwavering energy.

The stage design of “Hairspray” at The Ordway was nothing short of breathtaking. With the ever-changing stage sets and use of the digital backdrop, the audience moved along with the story line. From the fun filled stage set of a t.v. station, to the school grounds and even a jail cell, the use of the stage set was incredibly entertaining to watch unfold in front your eyes.

As common with opening night productions, there was an imbalance between the vocals and accompany music where the music was louder than the vocals. At moments like this, it makes it difficult to fully appreciate the lyrics and nuances of the songs. The second act was much improved and the audience was able to fully enjoy the rest of the show.

“You Can’t Stop the Beat”, the final song in the show, encourages you to tap your foot, shake your shoulders and nod your head to the famous song. You could rename the song “You Can’t Stop the Show” as this production suffered from a flood at the theater prior to arriving in St. Paul. The flood affected the full lighting system along with soaking all of the curtain drops used during the show. After a small delay in the prior city, to dry out everything, and install a loaner light system, the cast and crew completed the show and then headed to St. Paul. After just a one day delay in the production here, so the crew could re-build a new lighting system, the show concluded with this popular song and a standing ovation.

Overall, “Hairspray” at The Ordway delivered a vibrant and energetic theatrical experience that left a lasting impression on all who attended. Despite minor technical flaws, the production succeeded in capturing the spirit of the message of love and inclusion thru the beauty of song and dance.

Hairspray is at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul through March 17, 2024.

Review by Rachel Gorman; photo courtesy of the Ordway