Chanhassen’s Hairspray Puts an Ultra Hold on Its Audience

On the Mount Rushmore of Minnesotans who have had a significant impact on our culture, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Artistic Director Michael Brindisi deserves a bust right between Prince and Garrison Keillor.

Brindisi should be nicknamed Midas, because every show he touches turns to gold. The Chan’s latest production, “Hairspray,” is full of youth, energy and soul that had even the oldest audience members on their feet during a recent performance.

“Hairspray” takes serious issues like integration and self-image and couples it with toe-tapping music and humor in a way that makes for a delightful night at the theatre.

Brindisi’s direction is simple and he lets his actors deliver their roles from the heart. The show’s heroine, Tracy Turnblad, played by Chanhassen rookie Therese Walth is a spunky charmer who sees the good in people even if the world hasn’t seen the good in her yet.

Walth’s performance may re-define the phrase “Breakout Performance.” With spot on vocals and a dancing engine that doesn’t quit, Walth puts a humanness into Tracy that is paramount to the audience loving her.

Chanhassen regular David Anthony Brinkley gives a rousing performance in drag as Tracy’s too fat for primetime mother, Edna. Brinkley is a good enough actor that he doesn’t have to use much more than his talent to make us believe Edna is a diva waiting to breakout from her drab existence.

Other players who bring their “A” game in this production are Michael Gruber as the slimy but lovable Corny Collins, Ben Bakken as heartthrob Link Larkin, Kasono Mwanza as the soul singing and hard dancing Seaweed and Julianne Mundale whose Velma is as slimy as she is talented.

Hairspray is so good in so many ways. But the stars of this show are Walth who is the productions’ on stage leader and Brindisi who takes a light and frizzy show and gives it some volume and body. Don’t miss it.

Blair Reynolds is a freelance writer and theatre critic living in St. Paul, Minn.

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