By Debbie Hale
The Chattanooga Theatre Centre MainStage closes out the season with an electrifying production. The Tony Award-winning “Hairspray” offers incessant, fun-filled songs energetically performed by a 28-member cast led by CTC’s producing director, George Quick.
Quick masterfully crafts this workmanship with team members Mike Lees (musical director) Lindsay Fussell (choreographer), Rodney Strong (stage manager), Scott Dunlap (scenic design), Thomas Goddard (lighting design), Paul Hughes (sound design) and Warren Brady (technical supervisor).
Set in Baltimore in June 1962, “Hairspray” deals with serious social issues, including various types of discrimination. Narrating the story of people who don’t fit in, the cast delivers the lesson to be learned in a delightful celebration of music of the late ’50s and early ’60s.
With the usual professionalism exhibited in CTC performances, the production is an extraordinary spectacle of abilities in every musical number. This strong cast of talent does contain several who deserve additional mention.
Gracie Bramlett makes her CTC debut as Tracy Turnblad. Bramlett’s interpretation of the heroine is most convincing in her lovable, innocent fashion. With her beautiful voice, Bramlett wins the hearts of her audience.
Brittni Rhodes is hilarious as Tracy’s sidekick, Penny. Also making her CTC debut, Rhodes is unbelievably animated and impelling.
Kyle Dagnan captures the role of Corny Collins with smooth style. A talented singer and dancer, Dagnan seems to be at ease in this pivotal performance.
The character of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mom, is believably played by Jeff Hill. The role is traditionally done in drag, and Hill is great in this challenging role and quite entertaining in the musical number “You’re Timeless to Me,” performed with Lebron Benton, as Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s dad.
Derek Yates makes a great CTC debut with his first musical-theater experience as Link Larkin, Tracy’s heartthrob. As Amber VonTussle, Tracy’s antagonist, Shelby Christine Folks is likewise unscathed in her CTC debut. Kim Ingram nails the loathsome Velma VonTussle, mother of Amber. Wendy Tippens is hilarious in doubling as Prudy Pingleton, the Gym Teacher, and the Matron.
Two cast members excel with performances unparalleled. In his first performance at the CTC, Jermaine Purifory, as Seaweed, is a standout as a dancer and vocalist. A true entertainer, he will go far in his musical endeavors.
Portraying his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, is Azusa Q. Dance, who possesses one of the most powerful voices to ever be on the MainStage at CTC. When Dance sings, you know who controls the stage. She is fabulous.
The cast keeps the audience toe-tapping along with the music.
“You Can’t Stop the Beat” evokes a standing ovation as the curtain closes on a splendid night of musical theater at the CTC. It’s pure fun for all ages.