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a Musical
by Book by Mark O'Donnell & Thomas Meehan, Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Whitman and Marc Shaiman

COMPANY : Atlanta Broadway Series
VENUE : Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3285

SHOWING : January 13, 2009 - January 18, 2009



Big Hair, Big Songs, and Big Hearts highlight this recent Broadway Smash.

Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


You CAN Stop to Breathe
by Dedalus
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Last night, the Broadway hit “Hairspray” opened the Cobb Energy Centre’s new Atlanta Broadway Series with a fun and frothy evening of song and dance. And, while it didn’t quite register as a “Ready-for-Blastoff” energy-fest, it was still a pleasant diversion, and it heralded a welcome addition to the area’s roster of Big-Budget tours.

For those who’ve been asleep for the past few years (and, I suppose, I should count myself in that number since this was my first exposure to this show), “Hairspray” is a 2002 adaptation of “out-there” filmmaker John Waters’ 1988 movie of 1962 Baltimore. “Full-figured” teenager Tracy Turnblad wants to dance on the Corny Collins TV show, and wants to bring all her “Uptown Minority” friends with her. Backed by her parents and her best friend, she not only gets her dream, she also gets the guy, teen-idol-in-the-making Link Larkin. Filled with toe-tapping and hummable faux-62 songs and fantasies, it is still grounded in the realities of mid-century segregation and racial attitudes. I liked the original John Waters movie, I liked the 2007 movie version of this musical, and I liked this staging, a non-equity cast using the original Broadway set and staging (or so I’m told).

To start with, I’m a big fan of the score of this show, which is very specific to several 1962 genres, including “suburban pop,” cutting-edge rhythm-and-blues, variety-show “standards,” and even a bit of gospel. The climactic “You Can’t Stop the Beat” has been a favorite of mine since the show first opened, and I can’t listen to it without wanting to move. The styles and even the lyrics are quite good at evoking the era, one which I remember a lot better than I thought I would (I was 9 in 1962 – please don’t do the math).

As to this production, because of some of the talent on display, I can forgive the occasional lapse in energy, in pitch, and in concentration (including an extended on-stage corpse during “You’re Timeless to Me”). I was hoping for a fast-paced hop with enough energy to power the up-stage computer-driven light-screen, and, the cast almost got there. There were just more opportunities to “stop and breathe” than I was expecting (and hoping for).

There really isn’t anything to complain about with cast. Brooklyn Pulver’s Tracy has a great belt voice a way with a shimmy that belies her size. Jerry O’Boyle’s Edna Turnblad made me forget I was watching a man in drag, and he (she?) is ably matched by Drew Davidson’s goofy Wilbur. Even when they were cracking each other up during their big duet (and the ad-libs that caused the corpse were especially good, in an out-of-character Borscht Belt way), I could almost believe they were the characters laughing together, not the actors (almost). Erin Sullivan and Ariel Tyler Page give us a daughter and mother Von Tussle team that was suitably hissable, and Sean Zimmerman and Matthew Ragas gave us a Corny and Link that threatened to break the bland handsome-guy confines of their characters.

The rumor is that we saw the understudy for Motormouth Maybelle (Tracie Franklin), and, if she at first appeared too light-skinned for the role (more than one person around me made the “Is she white?” comment), she more than made up with her from-the-gut and shake-the-rafters renditions of “Big, Blonde & Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been.” If we did see Lisa Linette in the role (as programmed), well, my apologies for bringing bad rumours into my comments, and well done!

But the standouts for me were the Penny Pingleton of Amber Rees, the Seaweed of Christian White, and the multi-role (but sorta kinda same character) efforts of Kate Feerick. All three brought over-the-top silliness to the show that was funny without being too outrageous. All right, they were outrageous, but it was an outrageousness I welcomed and enjoyed.

On a technical level, the scene transitions were smooth and fast, the computerized light curtain was whiz-bang fabulous without being distracting, and the costumes and hairstyles were colorful and downright tacky-gaudy, as well they should have been. The sound and light balance were a bit off in the first couple numbers (especially “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” which kept Tracy in shadow and which kept the back-up voices louder than the soloists), but the Techies soon found their footing and things were rolling smoothly well before intermission.

So, this is a respectable production of a fun show, which I liked a lot. If there were too many less-then-breakneck-paced sections, if the dancing never really took off to the expected heights, if the blend of voices was sometimes just a tad off-key, well, this is 1962, and it succeeded in taking me back to my geek-spent childhood.

And, maybe by the end of the run, the cast will get to the point where “You Can’t Stop to Breathe.”

-- Brad Rudy (

The Understudy Issue by Dedalus
After I posted this, I received the following interesting E-Mail:

Just wanted to clarify something in your review of the show....

Firstly, my name is Angela and if you saw the show Tuesday (January 13, 2009) it was me that you saw. (If you saw it another time then you can disregard my message:)

What happened was the week in Atlanta was a change over week for the cast. I have been in the role since May of 2007 and left the show the Friday of that week. However, because my replacement was doing the latter part of the week the programs for Atlanta were incorrect. I was taken out of the program. So all the reviews for Atlanta had Lisa Linette as Motormouth. Tracie Franklin was a dynamite in the show, but at the point you saw the actual "understudy" was Lisa Linette but she didn't go into the show officially until the
weekend. But thanks for the review!

Angela Birchett

So, let's amend the review to congratulate Ms. Birchett for a job well done on the 1/13 show that I saw!

-- Brad


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