Showtime: Big Talent Revealed in

May 13, 2005

“HAIRSPRAY” was a fabulous choice for Country DaySchool’s traditional annual musical. Set in Baltimore in 1962, itwas a period piece for the cast of more than 50 talented high-schoolstudents who played characters of their own age. However, for parentsand grandparents in the audience, it was an entertaining reminiscenceof their youth.“Hairspray” opened on Broadway in August 2002, won nineTony Awards the following year, including Best Musical, and is stillpacking in audiences today.Directed by Elizabeth O’Flanagan, the school’s production,performed in English in the Country Day School auditorium, in thewestern suburb of Escazú, was skillfully cast and staged. Musicaldirector Liz Head did an excellent job with the score, embracingmusical styles of the 1950s and ‘60s. It was a joyous tribute to apast era that brimmed over with infectious energy, pizzazz and zanytheatricality. Unfortunately, however, the music was too loud attimes and tended to drown out the singers; distortion problems inthe sound system didn’t help.The ensemble numbers, expertly choreographed by MichelleAtkinson and Hetty Wen, were spectacular toe-tapping showstoppers.The costumes, designed by Teri Jampol, brought to mind a‘60s fashion parade, and the colorful set and over-the-top hairstyles– beehives included – added to the visual feast. These must haverequired vast quantities of hairspray. Maybe next year they’ll forgetthe hairspray and give us just “Hair!”Female lead Allison Fontaine-Capel was sweetly appealing andtotally believable as Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with an abundanceof blonde hair, a benevolent heart and a passion for dancing. Shefights for a spot on the local TV dance program “The Corny CollinsShow” and is catapulted overnight from ordinary girl to teen star.Jonathan Liebembuk never missed a beat in the portrayal ofCorny Collins; every movement and gesture, including his phonysmile, were perfectly coordinated. Tracy’s friend Penny, played byMichelle Atkinson, was a loveable delight. Thomas Wielemaker andBryan Hylton were convincing as the lead love interests, and MichaelHansen played the male authority figure with mincing aplomb.The bigoted Velma, played by Julia DesChenes, and her brattydaughter Amber, played by Olivia Jampol, were as totally obnoxiousas they should have been. Gabriela Castejón’s lively performanceas Motormouth Maybelle was enhanced by her impressivevoice and blonde Afro.To play a role in drag and make it believable is a challenge forany actor, but Lyonel Arias’s excellent performance as Tracy’shomebody mother Edna was funny, moving, and at times full ofpathos. Tim Hawkins, the only teacher in the cast, gave praiseworthysupport as Tracy’s loving, over-optimistic dad.The rest of the supporting roles were played with enthusiasmand vigor, and the entire show bubbled with irrepressible, playfulenergy. However, on many occasions, a lot of the actors could beheard but not understood due to bad enunciation. They should certainlyconcentrate on improving this in the future.Only three performances were given April 28-30. This seems ashame considering the amount of time and energy that must havegone into staging this spectacular and entertaining show.

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