For many years, I considered myself a “Hairspray” purist. I was a snob completely devoted to the original John Waters’ version starring Ricki Lake and Debbie Harry. I could hardly be bothered with the 2007 remake. John Travolta replacing the irreplaceable Divine? Sinful. And then there was that kid from the “High School Musical” franchise – Zac Efron.
Seriously. Zac Efron? This was a story intended to shine a light on the glorious counter-culture of John Waters’ Baltimore youth. And they injected a Disney star? I was appalled.
But then again, perhaps I was being too militant. So when the nice folks at Drury Lane Theatre sent me free tickets to the musical version of the movie, I decided to give it a whirl. My willingness to reconsider a strongly held belief usually rests entirely on how much it’s going to cost me.
And free is always good.
So I packed up my oldest friend and we headed to Oak Brook. Unfortunately, my buddy’s GPS couldn’t quite find the street (“Recalculating…RECALCULATING…TURN NOW!!”). We raced into the theatre with only seconds to spare, and I was suddenly overcome with a strong sense of déjà vu as we ran through the lobby.
“Hey. Didn’t we have prom here?”
Still panting from the scramble to our seats, the curtain pulled up and I sat mesmerized through the opening number, “Good morning Baltimore.” The familiar story of a chubby high schooler working to integrate a local dance show blended in beautifully with the upbeat musical numbers and whimsical dance routines. There was a host of non-PC jokes that left me in hysterics. Oddly enough, I often seemed to be the only one laughing. I almost peed myself when one character commented:
“If one more white person walks in, this will become a suburb.”
I would put “Hairspray” in the same category of enjoyment as “Wicked” and “The Producers.” Even the more serious social significance of the musical is overshadowed by the kitsch costumes, over-the-top hair, and playful irreverence.
It may not be Shakespeare, but I definitely walked out with a lighter heart and less of an inclination to bash my friend’s GPS into the cement. It was the perfect way to spend a Thursday evening.