“Hairspray” Shines in Bay Ridge

Combining unapologetic irreverence and unmistakable affection, the huge cast and crew of Jeff Samaha Theater Productions and Ridge Chorale are currently showcasing “Hairspray.” Their boundless energy and exuberance successfully tackle some of the most divisive subjects in modern America.

Unlikely heroes abound in this wonderful musical comedy/satire. Characterizations are well developed by both children and adults. On opening night, the audience responds with shouts of approval and applause for the mixture of strong solos and excellent ensemble efforts.

Gianna Sciortino leads the parade of talent with a smiling, unbridled interpretation of dancing teen, Tracy Turnblad. Her optimism is contagious in the songs “Good Morning Baltimore,” “I Can Hear the Bells” and “Welcome to the ‘60s.” Her mother Edna (Matt Hunt) and father Wilber (John Panepinto) are devoted parents and a happily married couple. Their duet “You’re Timeless to Me” is a humorous smorgasbord of blunt amorous confessions.

Director/choreographer Kathy Valentine, Producer Karen Tadross and Musical Director/conductor Jeff Samaha serve a well-prepared platter of popular performers. Penny Pingleton (Isabella Sirota) is Tracy’s best friend. She proves to be an outstanding dancer and singer. These qualities do not go unnoticed by a certain special student — “Seaweed” Stubbs (Erech Holder-Hetmeyer). His dancing is wonderfully effortless.

More standout performances include manipulative executive Velma Von Tussle (Luisa Boyaggi) who sings “Miss Baltimore Crabs.” She is supported by her equally manipulative daughter Amber (Ashley Ann Jones). The guys who rebel against the Von Tussle inquisition are well played by Antonio Oliveri as Corny Collins and Timothy Sundholm as Link Larkin.

The most powerful presentation, filled with pride, deep emotion and outstanding vocal quality is clearly Renee Steadman. Her “I Know Where I’ve Been” defines the entire production. Yes, comedy and music are merely the vehicle for the show’s very serious message of tolerance and equality. Brava!

Dozens of strong supporting performers along with a tireless creative team behind the scenes have also combined to deliver this high quality production. Sets and costumes are bright and colorful. Nothing has been spared for this big, beautiful night of entertainment.

The show is currently on stage at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology. Call 718-989-9566 or “like” them on Facebook. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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