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Hairspray. What started out as a somewhat edgy film by the raunchy and iconoclastic John Waters has morphed into a sugar-sweet, much-loved, Tony-winning musical about self-acceptance and the need for all of us to also accept others. The year is 1962, the place is Baltimore, and rotund, irrepressible Tracy Turnblad manages to charm and wheedle her way onto The Corny Collins Show after learning some sharp moves from the hip black kid, Seaweed. Now she can sing and dance with the acceptably thin and white in-crowd; the inevitable mean girl, Amber; and sexy Elvis wannabe Link. But Tracy wants to know why only white people are allowed on the show, with black kids confined to just a single day a month; by the end of Hairspray, she's got everyone dancing together to "You Can't Stop the Beat." And not just the teens. Also her extremely large and hitherto reclusive mother, Edna; half the adults connected with The Corny Collins Show; and her once-mousy best friend, Penny, now all dolled up and ready to caper with her new love, Seaweed. Director Rod A. Lansberry has staged a very appealing production with a youthful, energetic cast; a smart, stylized set by Brian Mallgrave; and costumes designed by Project Runway finalist Mondo Guerra. It's the genius of Hairspray that when everyone starts cavorting together at the end, you find yourself grinning and tapping and clapping along because — cynicism and realism be damned — multiple happy endings are exactly what we want from this bubblegum-sweet, lighter-than-cotton-candy and utterly good-natured confection. Presented by the Arvada Center through July 17, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, Reviewed June 30.

In Perfect Harmony. Like all of Heritage Square's summer musicals, this one has almost no plot. The characters are supposed to be singers who formed their own group, the Dysfunctional Family, after aging out of the youth-oriented Up With People. They start out pretty dorky, with Rory Pierce in horn-rimmed spectacles, Johnette Toye sporting an insanely determined smile, and everyone wearing neat, good-kid outfits: navy dresses and shirts, neatly pressed slacks. But they're trying to evolve and get hipper, so they try all kinds of styles and genres: rock, country, great old musicals, newer musicals, pretty ballads, television theme songs (including South Park), and their patented imitation of the Mamas and the Papas, with Annie Dwyer in a fat suit as Mama Cass, and the voices harmonizing beautifully on "Monday, Monday." The oldest number, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?," movingly sung by T.J. Mullin, seems utterly contemporary these days, as we teeter on the edge of what may be another Depression. I'd take the country song "Atheists Don't Got No Music" as an insult, except that the lyrics do allow us blues and rock and roll. Mullin and Dwyer sing a lovely folkie tune called "When You're Next to Me," from A Mighty Wind, and Alex Crawford's deep baritone does full justice to "Old Man River." But the focus is all on the excellent singing and playing, the precision of the group numbers, and choreography that sometimes approaches real elegance — not on shtick. You get the sense that the troupe is trying to do things a little differently, perhaps appeal to a bigger audience. So while the dialogue is still cornball, you don't get the guys' usual hilarious cross-dressing routine — I missed that glimpse of Pierce's shapely legs — and Dwyer doesn't race into the audience to assault bald men with sticky kisses. There are also fewer moments of jaw-dropping, I-can't-believe-I-saw-that insanity. I missed those, too. Presented by Heritage Square Music Hall through September 4, 18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-279-7800, Reviewed June 16.

The Little Prince. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is presenting Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince as a fable for both children and adults, though it might be a little sophisticated for the former. The Aviator's plane goes down in the desert, where, with his supply of water running out and fearing for his survival, he encounters a strange, golden-haired boy and learns about the boy's home, an asteroid that boasts three volcanoes — one extinct — as well as a horde of troublesome baobab trees whose powerful roots threaten to tear the place apart, and a beautiful rose, with which the youngster is in love. The prince also spins satirical stories about the six planets he visited before Earth, each ruled by a foolishly eccentric man; the idea that adults are inherently ridiculous and only children can see clearly is central to the author's worldview. There are many autobiographical elements to the plot, the festival program explains. Saint-Exupéry himself spent several hallucinatory days in the Sahara after a plane crash, where he saw desert roses and encountered small desert foxes. The character of the Little Prince was inspired by his younger brother, Francois, who died of rheumatic fever. Director Philip C. Sneed is to be commended for using an adaptation (by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar) that sticks closely to the original text, and the spare, simple set, costumes and character groupings all refer to Saint-Exupéry's own watercolor illustrations. The Aviator tells us at the beginning how his attempts to draw as a boy were thwarted by the incomprehension of adults — he thought he'd created a boa constrictor that had just swallowed an elephant; they saw only a hat — and the production focuses closely on the act of drawing throughout. The Aviator sketches the scenes the prince describes, and we see the results on a screen; this makes for a dynamic illustration of the ways in which art and imagination shape reality. Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 14, University Theatre, University of Colorado at Boulder, 303-492-0554, Reviewed June 30.

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