Bengal Theatre Company Bringing ‘Hairspray’ to Barnegat This Weekend

Apr 09, 2019


Barnegat High School’s Bengal Theatre Company will perform the Tony Award-winning musical “Hairspray” this Thursday through Saturday, April 11 to 13 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, April 14 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. They may be reserved at or purchased at the door.

The musical is campy and filled with larger than life characters (sometimes literally), outrageous plot twists, quirky costumes and hairstyles and, most importantly, the nerve to take on controversial issues, in this case, racism.

The show takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Tracy Turnblad (Jill Bopp) and her BFF Penny (Allison Truex) race from school to Tracy’s home to watch “The Corny Collins Show” (based on Baltimore’s version of “American Bandstand,” the “Buddy Deane Show”). It is announced that Brenda (Elisa Goepfert) one of the “Corny Collins Council Members,” its teenaged cast of dancers, will have to take a leave of absence and that the show will be auditioning for a replacement.

“Our own fun loving, freewheeling Brenda will be taking a little leave of absence from the show,” says Corny (Ryen Mulrane). “How long will you be gone, Brenda?”

“Nine months.”

“So,” Corny continues, “it seems we’ll have an opening for a girl who is just as fun loving, but maybe not quite as freewheeling. Wanna be one of the nicest kids in town? Cut school tomorrow and come on down to station WZZT to audition!”

Tracy is thrilled but her mother Edna (Juliana Shugar) refuses to give her permission to try out, worried her daughter will be laughed at due to her weight. Her perpetually upbeat and loving father Wilbur (George Rodriguez) overrules his wife, giving Tracy the chance to chase her dream.

Tracy, though, is immediately rejected by the TV show’s producer, Velma Von Tussle (Emilie Guinan), because of her size, as is another girl, Little Inez (Janiery Cruz), who is disqualified because of her race (“The Corny Collins Show” only allows blacks one day a month on “Negro Day”).

Tracy’s day at school isn’t much better. She’s sent to detention by the school’s principal (Marielle Sansig) because of her hairstyle (the sponsor of “The Corny Collins Show” is “Ultra Clutch Hairspray, for hair that holds up even in a NASA wind tunnel!”).

That detention, though, is actually a big break for Tracy. She meets Seaweed J. Stubbs (Geoffrey Bowen), the son of Motormouth Maybelle (Abby Darbo) and older brother of Little Inez.

“Your mom,” asks Tracy, “is Motormouth Maybelle, the DJ? That makes you like royalty! Negro Day is the best. I wish every day was Negro Day.”

“At our house it is,” responds Seawood.

He teaches Tracy some dance steps. They soon come in handy at the Patterson Park High School’s gymnasium, where a sophomore hop is taking place with guest DJ Corny Collins. Tracy’s dancing impresses Corny so much he invites her to become a Council Member. Her moves also impress Link Larkin (Isaias Badilla) a Council Member who is Tracy’s heartthrob. That upsets Amber (Liz Critelli), Link’s girlfriend and Velma’s daughter, to no end.

Mr. Spritzer (Jordan Burton), the Ultra Clutch owner, is also upset because Tracy told Corny, on the air, that she’d like to make every day Negro Day. Velma wants to fire Tracy immediately, and Corny to boot.

“You can’t fire Corny Collins from ‘The Corny Collins Show’” says Corny.

“Why not? They do it all the time on ‘Lassie,’” responds Velma.

Corny survives by threatening to take his show to a different channel. And Tracy thrives! Mr. Pinky (Chase Lomboy), the owner of a plus-size dress shop, offers to make her his store’s commercial spokesperson. Tracy’s success even improves her mother’s life. Edna hadn’t been outside of her apartment for years but Tracy insists she become her agent and mom gets a makeover to accompany her to her meeting with Pinky.

Tracy has many fans. Unfortunately she also has enemies in the persons of Amber, who knocks her out in a gym class dodge ball game, and Velma.

The school nurse is out sick, so Seaweed takes Tracy to his mom’s record shop, thinking that some fun would make her feel better. There’s a platter party taking place and Tracy rallies everybody to march against the TV station the next day – Mother-Daughter Day – to force the integration of “The Corny Collins Show.” Motormouth even convinces Edna and Wilbur to join the march.

Velma calls the police when the protesters arrive and all of them are arrested and thrown into jail.

Can Tracy get out in time to compete in the Miss Teenage Hairspray 1962 competition? Will the budding romance between her and Link bloom?

“Hairspray” is hilarious. Its songs successfully pay homage to the music of the early 1960s. The show offers dancers plenty of opportunities to strut their stuff.

 Rick Mellerup


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