JCC Uncommoners’ Performance Of ‘Hairspray’ Deserves An Audience

Standing ovations are fairly common, but a standing ovation in the middle of the play is rare.

That rare event occurred Friday night during Jamestown Community College’s opening night production of “Hairspray,” when the audience rose to its feet to acknowledge JamieLee Rose as Motormouth Maybelle, singing “I Know Where I’ve Been.” I’m not a singer, so I can’t comment on high or low notes, or a voice’s range, but I do recognize power and emotion, and Rose has a full supply of both.

That song is in the second act of the play, but with this cast of “Hairspray,” you don’t need to wait until the second act to enjoy quality singing and dancing. At curtain’s opening, Teal Weatherley as Tracy Turnblad, and the ensemble, belt out “Good Morning Baltimore” and the energy never stops. Produced by Steven Gustafson and directed by Julie Constantini, the JCC Uncommoners can add another success to their list of musicals. Choreography was by Jennie Cross, and it was spot on, bringing back memories for those of us who lived the 60’s.

The plot, briefly, revolves around Tracy’s efforts to get on the Corny Collins show (think “American Bandstand”) as a dancer. She’s not the pencil-thin type that the show’s producer likes, but Corny Collins gives her a break. As a “council member” Tracy realizes that “Negro Day” once a month is wrong, and she works to integrate the cast, with the help of Seaweed, played by Daman Holland; his mother, Motormouth Maybelle; and some high school friends. They all belong on the dance floor more than one day a month, but Seaweed, especially, has all the right moves.

Christopher Switala had the right amount of cheery slickness for the role of Corny Collins, and Holly Weston and Kaylee Volpe as the mother-daughter of Velma and Amber Von Tussle oozed false charm that let you know right away that they were the villains.

There’s a large ensemble cast, too many to mention individually, but Derek DeVliegler deserves mention as Link, Tracy’s boyfriend, who knows how to sing a love song, and the entire ensemble gets three cheers for both singing and dancing.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I thoroughly enjoyed the show but, besides JamieLee Rose’s amazing rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been,” I especially enjoyed the duet by Adam Owens and Steve Wendell. A man in drag traditionally plays Tracy’s mother, Edna, and Adam Owens did it just right. He was totally believable as a tall, hefty female, tough and fierce when defending her daughter, but a little shy and hesitant when encouraged to dance in “Welcome to the 60’s” with designer Mr. Pinky (John Caboot).

Steve Wendell, who plays Tracy’s father Wilbur, is a much shorter, slimmer actor; so, when Wilbur and Edna sing and dance to “(You’re) Timeless to Me” it is both touching and funny.

The technical crew did a great job with scenery and lighting and there was never any doubt about the location of the action. And, of course, it’s not a musical without an orchestra. Conductor Mary Anne Harp knows what she’s doing, and gets the best from her musicians, who are all professionals to the core.

“Hairspray” repeats Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at JCC’s box office, 338-1187, or online, at campusstore.sunyjcc.edu/jamestown.