Big-hearted ‘Hairspray’ bursts with personality at Capital One Hall

When a Baltimore teen dances her way onto a favorite television program, a much larger story of 1960s America is set in motion. Despite being made fun of for her big hair, her big clothes, and her big dreams, 16-year-old Tracy is determined to change the size and the color of the world, one dance at a time. With a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan; music, arrangements and lyrics by Marc Shaiman; and lyrics also by Scott Wittman, this touring production of Hairspray is rocking Capital One Hall for one weekend only and brings the fun.

With a big heart and a whole lot of groovy dance moves, Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad is sunshine, hope, and optimism in a bottle. Shimmying and shaking her way through the high-energy musical, “I Can Hear the Bells” and the DMV’s favorite, “Good Morning Baltimore,” were standouts for Metcalf’s shining expressions and utter commitment to Tracy’s all-in, love-you-the-way-you-are personality.

‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’: (center) Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad and Company in ‘Hairspray.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Nurturer of Tracy’s big heart is mother, manager, and megastar Edna Turnblad, played by the iconic Andrew Levitt aka Nina West (widely known from RuPaul’s Drag Race). Staying true to her camp roots, every moment on stage for Levitt was a masterclass in expression and physical comedy. You couldn’t help but grin at “Welcome to the ‘60s,” cheering as the feathers on stage multiplied exponentially, and in “(You’re) Timeless to Me” with her husband, Wilbur Turnblad, played by Ralph Prentice Daniel, which took you straight back to the vaudeville days of old.

Hoping to block her for both the ring and the crown was Amber Von Tussle played by Ryahn Evers. Annoying, self-obsessed, and spiteful, particularly in “Cooties” during her bid for the Miss Teenage Hairspray title, Evers was an Amber you were so happy to hate (in a good way).

Stealing Tracy’s heart and probably those of half of the audience was Nick Cortazzo as Link Larkin. Balancing his aspirations of being a national heartthrob in “It Takes Two” with his realization of what love (or “Without Love”) really means, Cortazzo’s Link pushed beyond the pretty-boy surface.

Also in the throes of love, Emery Henderson as Penny Pingleton and Charles Bryant III as Seaweed J. Stubbs together were as connected as magnets and as unique as the bubble gum that started it all. For Bryant, “Run and Tell That” was a showcase for his smooth moves and silky vocals; and for Henderson, comedy and teenage awkward bubbled over in “Without Love.”

‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful’: Sandie Lee as Motormouth Maybelle in ‘Hairspray.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

A confident, guiding voice through it all was Motormouth Maybelle played by Sandi Lee. Her “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” improved the self-esteem of everyone in the audience, but far above and away was her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Earnest, defiant, and powerful, her voice rang out across a spellbound audience commanding us to listen and take action.

The rest of the large and energetic cast filled the stage with an array of little moments that layered an evening already bursting with personality. From the winks of Corny Collins (Billy Dawson), the smooth moves of Little Inez (Joi D. McCoy), and the looks of disgust on Velma Von Tussle’s face (Addison Garner) to the sweet, sweet harmonies of the Dynamites (Sydney Archibald, Melanie Puente Ervin, and Jade Turner) and the gusto of every other member of the company, you were never lacking something to catch your attention and draw you further in.

‘Run and Tell That’: (aloft, from left) Sage as Gilbert, Kyle Kavully as Thad, Charlie Bryant III as Seaweed J. Stubbs, and Company in ‘Hairspray.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Taking on the national tour challenge of a bigger-than-the-stage musical was a production team led by Director Jack O’Brien and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Lighting (Kenneth Posner), scenic design (David Rockwell), sound design (Shannon Slaton), and most of all costume design (William Ivy Long) and wigs and hair design (Paul Huntley & Bernie Ardia) all solidified a colorful evening.

In its second season, Capital One Hall brings Broadway to Tysons with the Hairspray, a tour that dreams big to be big. Full of energy, love, and heart, you just can’t stop the beat from tapping your toes and bringing a smile to your face long after the curtain falls.

Running Time: Two hours 40 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Hairsprayplays for one weekend only, through January 22, 2023, at Capital One Hall—7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA. Tickets start at $54 and can be purchased online.

The Hairspray tour website is here.

COVID Safety: Patrons attending events at Capital One Hall are no longer required to wear masks or provide proof of their vaccination status.