Big hair, big show in Havre de Grace

Motormouth Maybelle (played by Melissa Broy Fortson) and Tracy Turnblad (Stacey Bonds) share a common goal: to integrate the Corny Collins Show.
Motormouth Maybelle (played by Melissa Broy Fortson) and Tracy Turnblad (Stacey Bonds) share a common goal: to integrate the Corny Collins Show. (Karen Toussaint for The Aegis, The Aegis)

The Tidewater Players celebrates1960s Baltimore — big hair, the Buddy Deane dance show, and integration — in their production of "Hairspray."

The 2003 musical, inspired by Baltimorean John Waters' 1988 film, won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.


In the hands of experienced director Laurie Starkey and choreographer Dickie Mahoney, the Tidewater show displays the talents of the cast to best advantage. From the opening "Good Morning, Baltimore" to the closing "You Can't Stop the Beat," it's nonstop, feel-good, plus-size entertainment for the whole family.

"Hairspray" runs upstairs in the historic Opera House at 121 N. Union Avenue in Havre de Grace weekends through Dec. 14. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. (No shows are planned Nov. 29 or Dec. 15) All tickets are $18. Visit http://www.tidewaterplayers.com or call 410-939-8433.

Tidewater newcomer Stacey Bonds stars as Tracy Turnblad, whom the actress describes as "a fun-loving, bubbly and chubby teenager who always has a positive attitude on life and loves to dance."

Like many "hons" of her time, Tracy uses a lot of hairspray, which is essential for keeping her towering hairdo in place. A big fan of the Corny Collins teenage dance show on TV, she is ecstatic when she gets to join the cast.

"It has been my dream part since I saw the movie in 1988," she said.

Because John Waters cast Divine as Tracy's mother Edna in his film, traditionally a male actor [Harvey Fierstein, John Travolta] is cast in the role. At Tidewater, Chip Meister, known to Tidewater audiences for his performances as Lenny in "Of Mice and Men" and the Chief in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," steps into the very large housedress Edna wears around the house. His fuzzy slippers are courtesy of his wife, Madeline, who plays a jail matron in the play.

"Edna is an average American plus-size mom who wants the best for her daughter, but she has dreams of her own," the actor said, noting that Edna would like to come out with a line of queen-sized patterns for women's clothes. Instead, she runs a laundry service out of her home.

He reveals that he first met Madeline when they performed in "42nd Street." Later, they performed together in "Beauty and the Beast" — he, as Cogsworth, and she, as Mrs. Potts.

Tracy's father, Wilbur, is played by Leonard Gilbert. While he owns a joke shop, he lives for his "two girls" — Edna and Tracy. He and Edna declare their love for each other in "(You're) Timeless to Me."

Ryan Johns plays Link, the teenage heartthrob star of the Corny Collins show. On-air, he is teamed with Emily Elborn, who plays Amber Von Tussle. Amber's mother Velma, who produces the show, shamelessly promotes her daughter, scheming for her to win the title "Miss Teenage Hairspray."

Allison Graham, who plays Velma, says she doesn't want Tracy on the show because she "isn't skinny enough." She wants only cute, skinny white people on the show.

Mark Briner, who recently played Chip in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," is dance show host, Corny Collins.

"From the minute I saw it, I wanted to sing this score," he said, adding, "It's an unexpected pleasure to share the stage with my daughter, Hayley. I took her to see the show at the Morris Mechanic when she was seven. When we left, she said, 'I want to play Penny.'"

Hayley Briner, 17, realizes her wish by playing Penny, Tracy's best friend. Judy Scott plays Penny's controlling mother, Prudy Pingleton. Tidewater veteran Mike Schafer is effective in various cameo appearances.


On the other side of the color line, Melissa Broy Fortson gets the most out of Motormouth Maybelle, a civil rights activist and mother of Seaweed (Nick Epps) and Little Inez (Aryana Briner). She was recently seen as Jewel in "Best Little Whorehouse" and Gary in "Avenue Q."

Duane Stooie, Rondez Green, Ian Hudson Tigga Smaller, Paula and Shelby Smith, Lexi Magee, Austin Barnes, Gannon Webb, Elise and Josh Starkey, Cailyn O'Hara, Joe Weinhoffer, Heather Bounds and Marion Jackson (understudy) complete the cast.