Review: Aurora Theater Breaks Stereotypes with Hairspray Concert Performance

May 6, 1028

Mother nature didn’t rain on the Aurora’s parade. Well, maybe just a sprinkle, but that didn’t stop the show from going on at the Duluth Lawn–The show was Hairspray, and what a show it was!! Once again, the Aurora performed another free outdoor concert on the Lawn of Duluth’s City Hall to a packed crowd. There’s nothing like a concert under the stars (or in this case, clouds). Other than a few sprinkles, the weather cooperated as beautifully as the performers and orchestra to put on an inspiring performance.

Hairspray is a musical comedy based on John Water’s 1988 film of the same name. The Broadway musical, with music by Marc Shaimen, lyrics by Scott Whitman, and book by Marc O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan was a winner of 8 Tony awards out of 13 nominations in 2003. It has been also adapted to a movie (2007)  and live television performance (2016). The appeal of this show goes beyond the music and dancing. Hairspray dares to explore issues Americana faced in 1962 which we are still working on improving upon today. While in 1962 the issues were integration and inclusion of plus size women on television; in 2018, America still struggles with racial tension and perfect body images. Hairspray reminds us that we are all humans with a common purpose. In the words of a recent song by Mandisa, “We all bleed the same. We’re all beautiful when we come together.”

Of course The Aurora theater is known for putting on a spectacular performance. The orchestra, under the direction of the wonderful Ann-Carol Pence played flawlessly and supported a cast that reads like a who’s-who of performers on the North Georgia theater scene. We also saw some newcomers fresh off the graduation stage from the Gainesville Theater Alliance.

The audience was primed and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. We couldn’t help but sing along and dance in our seats as we watched the performers (some in full costume) sing, act and even dance this concert production of the iconic show.

“Keynote-worthy” performances included: Hillary Page Willis as the plus size Tracy Turnblad who dares to “think big to be big”; Glenn Rainey as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s agoraphobic mother, who learns to embrace her happiness and her size; Anthony Rodriguez as Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s father, biggest fan, and owner of the Har-dee Har Hut; Megan McFarland as Velma Von Tussle, former Mrs. Baltimore Crabs and producer of the local TV bandstand show; Haden Rider as Link Larkin, local hearthrob and Tracy’s love interest; Mahalia Jackson as Motormouth Maybelle, a voice of wisdom and reason for civil rights; Marcie Millard as Prudy Pingleton, Penny’s ignorant mother who gets schooled and opens her mind in the end; the entire ensemble, who came together to deliver an exciting performance and enjoyed performing for us as much as we enjoyed the performance; and last but not least, the orchestra — I may be a biased flutist, but nothing beats live instrumentation!

If you missed your chance to see this show, don’t miss out on what’s left of the Aurora’s season. Currently, Turner broadcasting is sponsoring Ripcord from May 10th-June 3rd. The sold out show Mamma Mia! can also be enjoyed at Georgia Tech from June 9th-24th. Season tickets are also on sale for the upcoming season which opens with Newsies from July 19th – September  2nd. For all the info, visit .

Jody Key — Speakeysie Managing Editor

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