The Successful Showcase of Hairspray

By Christopher Heide

You can’t stop the beat! In 2002, Hairspray was the first world premiere musical to leave the 5th Avenue Theatre and head for Broadway. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical and launched the Theatre’s unprecedented track record for sending new works to New York. Now 10 seasons later, the 5th collaborates with one of the world’s largest and most respected choruses, the Seattle Men’s Chorus. Together bring this special concert presentation of Hairspray, with all its glorious, irreverent, John Waters-inspired wackiness, back to the 5th Avenue stage for six very special performances.

“It’s been ten years since Hairspray took home eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical,” said 5th Avenue Executive Producerand Artistic Director David Armstrong. “It is our great pleasure to bring this hit back to the 5th where it began, and to let Seattle’s outstanding musical theater talent sink their teeth into these roles. We could not be more pleased to again partner with the Seattle Men’s Chorus to bring this fantastic music to life with a richness audiences have never seen.”

A special concert version of Hairspray is an ambitious arrangement and a true testament to the magnanimous virtuosity of Seattle’s theatrical world. Every June, the Seattle Men’s Chorus stages its annual concert, a relatively small affair, combining elements of musical performances, dramatic moments and comedic pratfalls.

This year, the collaborative minds decided to go for broke with this outrageously fun rendition; the Seattle Men's Chorus and the 5th Avenue Theatre have courageously staged the complete musical of Hairspray. Every line of dialogue and song, as well as the complete roster of characters are present for this full, energetic showcase. While some of the actors are still on-book, and the staging is minimal, the resulting spectacular is an impressive feat, especially considering the show’s limited rehearsal time. The backing of the Seattle Men’s Chorus and the engaging choreography serve to elevate nearly every musical number to the status of a diva-like, bombastic tour-de-force.

This tasty confection of artistic talent and creative genius has accomplished a nearly insurmountable task; a pulsating and lively three-hour extravaganza. Lead by an outstanding cast of all-stars, Hairspray boasts a tremendously deep pool of talent including Kat Ramsburg and Eric Polani Jensen as Tracy and Edna Turnblad. Other veteran, scene-stealing performers include Allen Fitzpatrick, Louis Hobson, Cynthia Jones, Kirsten deLohr Helland, Aaron C. Finley and Jessica Skerritt; all deliver crisp, polished performances.

As expected, Seattle’s drag superstar Jerick Hoffer (AKA Jinkx Moonsoon) managed to steal the entire show in his drag-fueled interpretation of Velma Von Tussle. In an appropriately scenery-chewing performance, Hoffer eschewed a deliciously comedic villainy, much to the audience’s delight. In fact, upon Hoffer’s first entrance to the stage, the audience erupted in an uproarious applause. Hoffer’s superb comedic timing and over-the-top theatrics prove why he was recently crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar.

Hairspray, a limited-run celebration, is a thoroughly enjoyable romp. The Seattle Men’s Chorus and the 5th Avenue Theatre should deservedly bask in the triumph of this collaboration.