By Elizabeth Cortes, Contributor
Furman University’s student-run musical theatre group Pauper Players was back at it again when they opened “Hairspray” under the direction of James Douglas. The remarkable thing about this production is its cast. I do not have enough good things to say about their performances, which would be worth seeing even without sets or costumes.
“Hairspray” tells the story of plus-sized teenage Tracy Turnblad, whose love of dancing turns 1960s Baltimore upside down. In spite of her size, she dreams of being a dancer on a local program. However, Tracy’s dreams collide with the Civil Rights Movement. Junior Allie Able did a fine job playing the heroine in an earnest performance, even getting the audience to applaud before she finished belting out the last note of “Good Morning Baltimore.”
Able, however, was not the only star, as she was surrounded by pure talent. Andy Teye and Jasmin Waites brought attitude as Tracy’s schoolmate Seaweed and his DJ mother Motormouth Maybelle, respectively. TJ Turner was just flawless in the drag role of Tracy’s mother Edna. You could have heard a pin drop during the testy confrontation between TV host Corny Collins (the ever-charming Ian McConnell) and his producer Velma Von Tussle (Emily Lanter, in a pleasantly understated performance).
There were noticeable technical kinks which needed to be worked out. The microphones in particular seemed to be misbehaving, which only served to affect the thing that makes this production worth seeing: the cast. There was also a small wardrobe malfunction during “Welcome to the ‘60s.” It was not all bad, by any means. Wylder Cooper’s lighting, for example, was great, as was the orchestra, helmed by music director Drew Whitlow. No matter the scale, it is a fact of life that any number of things can happen when a performance is live. “Hairspray,” after all, is an innately theatrical work.
Ultimately, this amazing cast had enough wattage to power the show. While other elements left something to be desired, they never did. Kudos to the Pauper Players for getting the cream of Furman’s song and dance talent. They didn’t let the beat stop.
“Hairspray” ran Feb. 2 through 4 at Furman University’s McAlister Auditorium.