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New department’s first show Hairspray a huge success

Arts & Entertainment Editorf

Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012

Updated: Sunday, October 28, 2012 21:10

The new Department of Music and Theatre opened its fi rst-ever musical production this past Friday, Oct. 19. The show Hairspray was an ambitious fi rst choice, but the risk paid off. Hairspray was a delight, and though not without fault, it was the most professionally presented student performance
that I have ever seen on Xavier’s campus. With over 50 students on cast and crew, it may surprise you to know that the casting was a selective process: 80 people auditioned for an original cast size of 36. Naturally, the show was cast carefully and deliberately, and it showed in the talent. The stage
was stacked with triple acts (performers who can sing, dance and act, all very well). The most notable of these were
Chris Johnson (Seaweed), Jessica Basken (Motormouth Maybelle), Catalina Briola (Penny), JJ Long (Link Larkin) and of course, Erica Krasienko, who starred as Tracy Turnblad. She stunned the audience, not simply with her vocal skills, but also with her truly exceptional stage presence. Her enthusiasm, energy and perfectly delivered one-liners created a glow
that filled every scene she was in. The musical and dramatic chemistry between her and her very talented co-star, Long, was perfectly performed. There could not have been a better pair casted for the roles. In addition to romance, the show’s comedic quality was another highlight of its success. The
humor, so critical to a show like Hairspray, was executed with perfect delivery. No member of the cast was more entertaining than Griff Bludworth, who played Tracy’s mother, Edna — the role made famous by John Travolta in the 2007 fi lm. His gesture, vocals and expressions were unparalleled. He was well supported by Sean McMahon (Wilbur Turnblad),
who brought even more laughter to the scenes in the Turnblad home. The only complaint that can be made was a small one. Knowing Hairspray to be an high-energy show, I expected to have trumpets blown in my face and be near knocked off my feet with the fi rst few songs. I felt slightly let down in songs like “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Mama Welcome to the Sixties,” as they lacked an underlying energy in their performance. Although they were smooth and contained great gems of humor, it appeared in the first act as though the cast was relying upon the up-beat music to convey the foot-tapping and fi fties-jive feel, and consequently lacked the high-energy I had anticipated in their own expression. The second act felt a bit perkier, for both the audience and the cast, and the infamous “You Can’t Stop the Beat” did not leave anyone
disappointed. Despite a subtle lack of energy at times, Hairspray was crisp and smooth in almost every way. The set was simple and fitting, the lighting and blocking were practically without fail, the laughs were plentiful and the music was simply fun. It’s no surprise that all of the first weekend’s shows were sold out. Get your tickets as soon as you can, if they’re not gone already. This upcoming weekend’s performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening. 

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