Friday, August 16, 2002



Music by Marc Shaiman, Book by Mark O'Donnell & Thomas Meehan, Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman. Dir. Jack O'Brien, choreo. Jerry Mitchell. Neil Simon Theatre. Through Jan. 4, 2009.

Critics were mostly bowled over by this ebullient pop-musical confection, adapted from John Waters' 1988 cult film. They hailed its book and particularly its '60s-steeped score, the witty design and the pitch-perfect performances, and the exuberant direction and choreography. NOTE: "You Can't Stop the Beat" is among the show's signature tunes, but as of Jan. 4, 2009, the show's Broadway beat comes to an end.

New York Post A+
(Clive Barnes) Yep, it's a hit--a great big fat gorgeous hit. For the second time in recent years, a new musical has roared into town and justified its advance glitz, glitter and hype. The first, of course, was "The Producers" -- and now, opening last night, there's "Hairspray"...From the skillfully schematic scenery by David Rockwell to the naughty authenticity of William Ivey Long's costumes, Jerry Mitchell's time-capsule-perfect choreography and the apiary-inspired hairdos of Paul Huntley, Hairspray is a triumph on all levels--one of those rare Broadway shows that clicks into place and space with classic abandon.

The Daily News A+
(Howard Kissel) All you can ask of a work of art is that it help you see the world more profoundly when you leave the theater than you did when you came in. That's what Hairspray does…The book, by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan; the score, by Marc Shaiman, and the lyrics, by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, perfectly distill the giddiness of Waters' screenplay…Hairspray is a gas."

Associated Press A
(Michael Kuchwara) Hairspray, riding enough hype to float the QE2, roared into Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre Thursday and promptly confirmed the buzz was right on the beam. The musical, based on filmmaker John Waters' subversive homage to his youth in early 1960s Baltimore, is a hoot--a hilarious and affectionate salute to those days when hair styles were high, skirts were tight and teens danced to a rhythm and blues sound that was beginning to shake up mainstream pop music... It's only August, and the 2002-2003 Broadway season has barely begun. Yet the year's biggest musical hit could already be here.

Talkin' Broadway A
(Matthew Murray) While Hairspray can easily be compared with a number of other musical comedies of the last couple of seasons, in its own way it leaves each in the dust. Hairspray may not be a transcendent experience and it may not change your life, but it is incredibly entertaining...The story of the overweight Tracy Turnblad (Marissa Jaret Winokur), who fights for the right to dance on The Corny Collins Show, is as inspiring as it is just plain fun...Hairspray is a joyous tribute to an era past, and an intelligent, warm, and joyous musical comedy of the type Broadway should never be without.

The New Yorker A
(David Denby) Exhilaratingly funny and warmhearted...The nostalgia in “Hairspray” may be giddy, but it’s free of condescension to the characters or to the period. At its best, the show creates the genuine emotions that the lower forms of camp often make fun of...What “Hairspray” is parodying was trivial to begin with, so the parodies don’t sting—and they’re not meant to. Instead, they break free into some goofy new realm of pop Dada. Twenty years ago, John Waters was called “subversive”; he enjoyed teasing the squares by dropping little turds of dismay into their lives. But this show is purely celebratory—there’s no dismay left, only laughing wonder...The grinning theatricality of Jack O’Brien’s direction and Jerry Mitchell’s choreography is so strong that a five-year-old would respond to it.

New York
(Jeremy Gerard) Staged within an inch of its life by Jack O'Brien and set positively awhirl by choreographer Jerry Mitchell...Who could quibble with a musical so relentlessly upbeat, wrapping its pudgy arms around such good liberal ends?...Ferociously determined to win us over, Hairspray makes the summer's other sixties lovefest, Goldmember, seem more Jane Austen than Austin Powers by comparison. It's shagadelic, baby.

USA Today
(Elysa Gardner) One big, loud, tacky party, sure to offend the neighbors—particularly those with no tolerance for racial humor, fat jokes or sexual innuendo. Yet what's most refreshing about this show, which opened Thursday at the Neil Simon Theatre, is its old-fashioned heart...This is kitsch at its purest and least apologetic, and it's as impossible to shake off as the heroine's lacquered beehive 'do. Granted, Hairspray's hold doesn't keep every element in place.

Newsday A-
(Linda Winer) A cheerful, good-natured cartoon with a first-rate cast and a big-budget 1962 tacky look. The show is not always as interesting or funny as it pretends. But it is a high-energy spoof within a spoof within a big-hearted message about the triumph of black people, fat people and, by extension, outsiders of all worthy persuasions...The results are innocuous and a little subversive.

Variety A-
(Charles Isherwood) OK, so the new musical Hairspray doesn't offer a cure for cancer, or the nose-diving Dow for that matter, but if the infectious jubilation currently spritzing from the stage of the Neil Simon Theater were bottled and sold across the country like, say, hairspray, consumer confidence would not be a problem. Certainly this sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection won't be lacking for buyers any time soon. Arriving in an aerosol fog of advance hype, it more than lives up to its promise...Certainly, the show's message of racial harmony is a bit past its sell-by date, and it's when the book toils through this material that it begins to sag a bit in act two.

The New York Times A-
(Ben Brantley) So what if it's more than a little pushy in its social preaching? Stocked with canny, deliriously tuneful songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and directed by Jack O'Brien with a common touch that stops short of vulgarity, ''Hairspray'' is as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay...There are moments (rare ones) when it seems to lose its comic moorings to drift into repetition, and it definitely overdoes the self-help-style anthems of uplift. But Hairspray succeeds in recreating the pleasures of the old-fashioned musical comedy without seeming old-fashioned. Think of it, if you insist on such nomenclature, as a post-postmodern musical. It's a work that incorporates elements of arch satire, kitsch and camp--all those elements that ruled pop culture for the past several decades--but without the long customary edges of jadedness and condescension.

Time Out NY A-
Marc Shaiman’s sonic-sugar score is as insanely catchy as ever; if the finale doesn’t set your toes a-tapping, you need to get new toes.

Village Voice B+
(Michael Feingold) The whole thing is a conspiracy to have fun...Does Hairspray "mean" anything as a social statement? Only this, that liberating agendas are easy to smuggle into the minds of people having a good time. This does no harm; if later on the agenda should crash on the sharp rocks of economic reality, its image stays in the mind.

New York Post A+ 14; The Daily News A+ 14; Associated Press A 13; Talkin' Broadway A 13; The New Yorker A 13; New York A 13; USA Today A- 12; Newsday A- 12; Variety A- 12; The New York Times A- 12; TONY A- 12; Village Voice B+ 11; TOTAL: 151/12=12.58 (A)

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