Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HAIRSPRAY: The King Center - Melbourne, FL (7.21.13)

The King Center / Melbourne, FL

As the "Show Biz Guru," maintain
a well-worn path from my front door
to the King Center. And although
I've experienced many memorable 
events at the venue over the years,
recently witnessed perhaps their
most fabulous production!

The Summer Musical Theatre Project presents aspiring Space Coast actors and actresses (ages ranging from 15 to 18) with an incredible opportunity to learn the ropes by working with experienced professionals in a theatrical environment. And for the second consecutive year, Melbourne, Florida's  Maxwell C. King Center recently partnered with The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse to recreate a Broadway classic — with an all-youth cast.

Hannah Bachman as Tracy Turnblad.
*All photos courtesy of Johnathon Goforth / 
Goforth Photography
This past spring, I attended the national touring company performance of Dreamgirls at The King Center. To say the least, it was a spectacular presentation. However, under the direction of  Dr. Anastacia Hawkins-Smith and Associate Director Karen Wilson, the talented and professional young people involved with the 2013 summer Hairspray production just may have shown up the "big boys!"

Set in Baltimore during the racially-charged early 1960s, Hairspray offers a hilarious, high-energy romp back to a simpler time when kids were cool, rock and roll was king, and EVERYBODY'S hair was sky-high!

Hannah Bachman delivered a stellar performance (reprising Ricki Lake's role from the original 1988 movie version) as Tracy Turnblad — the "pleasantly plump" high school teen who endeavors to become a dancer on the televised local afternoon Corny Collins Show. Along the way, we're introduced to a cast of quirky characters as Tracy comes of age — discovering love and achieving her dreams. 

Michael Tornatta was simply superb, skillfully channeling Divine (also from the original movie version), as Tracy's over-protective mother Edna Turnblad.

Michael Tornatta as Edna Turnblad: 
If I was just half as talented as this kid, 
I'd be jumping for joy too!
Other noteworthy performances from this impressive cast included John Dudley as the cocky, aspiring pop heartthrob Link Larkin, Danny Deruelle as TV dance show host Corny Collins, Sunny Gay as the spoiled-rotten teenager Amber Von Tussle and Michaela Vine as the scheming TV producer Velma Von Tussle.

I also was pleased to recognize Tyreek Greene as Seaweed and Jonathon Adler as Fender — alumni from last year's production of OKLAHOMA! They're now both two for two!

It truly was an ensemble effort, one filled with countless star performances. However, it was Bayley Ellenburg as Tracy's quirky best friend, Penny Pingleton who had me laughing so hard, I fought tears and snot bubbles throughout the three-hour event.

Bayley Ellenburg (L) as Penny Pingleton: 
She could recite the phone book and
likely have me rolling in the aisles!
Despite the fun story and powerful underlying message, the true star of Hairspray is the music. And mad props are certainly in order for Music Director Jean Black, Conductor William H. Yoh  Jr. and the entire orchestra.

There were so many wonderful musical moments that it's difficult to bullet point a select few. I would, however, definitely describe "(You're) Timeless to Me" — the duet between Tornatta and Logan Ayala as Tracy's father Wilbur Turnblad as a show-stopper. But it was Brittany McHellon's vocal performance as DJ Motormouth Maybelle on "I Know Where I've Been" that was THE musical highlight — literally bringing the entire audience of 2,000 to their feet. 

The cast of Hairspray.
These talented young people not only acted and sang — they danced. And I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the amazing contribution of Choreographer Natalie McKnight.

As I sat back taking it all in, I was overwhelmed by the hard work and dedication required to pull off a production of this caliber — and I extend the most heartfelt kudos to the entire team — including Executive Producer Steve Janicki, Marketing Director Nance Burroughs and the incredible King Center production staff. In sum, I'm already psyched for next year!

-Christopher Long
(July 2013)



C'MON! -


  1. Sorry I missed this! The only drawback of the live productions is that you can't pick them up later on DVD or catch the re-runs :(

    1. So true, Kevin. And this one was particularly amazing. Maybe next time, I'll just drag you with me!