HAIRSPRAY AT NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
Few modern musicals match the wit, heart, and craft of Hairspray, and Jeff Whiting’s production for North Shore Music Theatre is a mostly excellent reminder of just how lovable it is. Brooke Shapiro is terrific as Tracy Turnblad, the big-hearted, big-waisted, and big-haired girl who single-handedly lands a teenage heart throb, thaws the hearts of the villainous Von Tussles, and integrates a nationally syndicated television show, all without denting her ’do.
Hairspray is so well written that the flaws of this particular production are rendered relatively forgivable, but it is worth mentioning that the in-the-round setting at North Shore presents a regular problem that directors largely fail to rise above; there are moments in Hairspray that are so chaotic that I literally could not see what was happening on stage. Worse, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s deliriously funny script has not been adequately mined for all of its potential. Still, this Hairspray is a welcome salve for these perilous times.
HAIRSPRAY. THROUGH 11.11 AT NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE, 62 DUNHAM RD., BEVERLY. NSMT.ORG
THE ROOMMATE AT THE LYRIC STAGE
Two of Boston’s best-loved actresses join forces for The Roommate, Jen Silverman’s quirky comedy about two middle-aged women who find themselves living together, trying new things, and reckoning with a demon or two. Paula Plum plays Sharon, a 54-year-old Iowa woman who has recently retired from her marriage and takes in a roommate in order to save a little money. Adrianne Krstansky plays Robyn, a gay vegan from the Bronx whose arrival awakens in Sharon something real and untapped.
Directed by Spiro Veloudos, The Roommate is an irresistible treat featuring two beloved actresses at the top of their games. The play loses a bit of steam in its last third when Sharon takes a special interest in Robyn’s past, but Plum’s evolution (or devolution, depending on how you look at it) from provincial Midwestern matron to a scheming, pot-selling hussy is profoundly entertaining. What’s more, it’s the best thing the Lyric has done in nearly two years.
THE ROOMMATE. THROUGH 11.18 AT THE LYRIC STAGE COMPANY OF BOSTON, 140 CLARENDON ST., BOSTON. LYRICSTAGE.COM
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER AT HUB THEATRE COMPANY
I have tried very hard to see the merit in Peter and the Starcatcher, Rick Elice’s story theater-like adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel, but this rambunctious, hard-to-follow prequel about how Peter became Pan still seems like something that should have been left behind in improv class.
Peter and the Starcatcher is still an overloud, overlong slog that still needs some pruning. Director Sarah Gazdowicz’s pacing is glacial, which has resulted in a production that runs much closer to three hours than it needs to (the Broadway production ran a taut two hours) and scores of scenes that feel like playtime for the actors seem to go on and on.
Putting aside my ill feelings about the play, Hub Theatre Company’s high-energy revival does indeed conjure a bit of magic, and that is owed in no small part to the impeccable ensemble of actors who are turning out one of the best ensemble efforts of the year. I loved Michael John Ciszewski’s take on Smee, and Lindsay Eagle is a riot as the flatulent Alf. Jon Vellante and David Makransky are both major assets, and Joey C. Pelletier is in divine form as the dastardly, over-the-top Black Stache.
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER. THROUGH 11.17 AT HUB THEATRE COMPANY AT FIRST CHURCH BOSTON, 66 MARLBOROUGH ST. HUBTHEATREBOSTON.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.