Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

American Stage in the Park
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of De Valois, Balanchine & Robbins, Dearly Departed, and The Exonerated

The Cast
Photo by Joey Clay Photography
Some ideas make sense and some do not. Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O'Donnell, and Thomas Meehan's Hairspray in a production by American Stage in the Park at Demon's Landing is a perfect idea. Ever since being dragged kicking and screaming to the original Broadway production of this show shortly after it opened, I have had a complete love affair with it. Rarely does a score so completely carry a musical (the book is well crafted as well), and is there a more infectious finale than "You Can't Stop the Beat"? This show works whenever it is produced, I have never seen a production that I couldn't love on some level, and this one is lively, infectious and simply terrific.

At the center of everything is Allyson Pace, singing and dancing up a storm as Tracy Turnblad, a typical teenager if maybe a little size challenged. Her joy at waking up and wishing "Good Morning Baltimore" to one and all gets this Hairspray off to a rousing start. Matthew McGee gets another crack at playing Tracy's mom Edna (he has played this great part before) and in my mind, this goes right to the top of my favorite performances by Matt, one of my local favorites. Thomas Mothershed contributes nicely as husband/father Wilbur. The other half of The Scott and Patti Show, a local drag extravaganza, Scott Daniel plays Corny Collins. He is showbiz smarmy in just the right way. Alison Burns and Meredith Pughe are mother and daughter villains Velma and Amber Von Tussle, while David Michael Bevis is Tracy's love interest Link Larkin. Jayne Trinette, Deejay Young, and Nia Jamison-Sissle are Motormouth Maybelle and her two children Seaweed J. Stubbs and Young Inez. Kayla Thomas completes the principals as Penny Pingleton. The ensemble cast all dance and sing their hearts out to enliven things.

Shain Stroff directs and choreographs perfectly for this venue. The stage area is quite large and he fills it with enough energy to keep downtown St. Petersburg lit even if we should experience a brown out. Michael Raabe directs the music end of things in his usual sensational way. He is able to convincingly direct the music for many musicals with many diverse styles. My only quibble is that Michael is at the back end of the stage; one of my favorite things when attending one of his productions is to enjoy how much he loves doing what he is doing. He is so animated. Jerid Fox is responsible for the terrific scenic design, incorporating an area stage right for the Turnblad home and Har-De-Har Hut. The colorful costumes are the work of Trish Kelly, lighting design is by Mike Wood, and Scott Daniel has designed wigs and hair, just in case he was not busy enough as Corny.

Hairspray is the perfect musical for Demon's Landing, and is now my favorite of all I have seen here (Hair, Rent, and The Wiz among others). This is one of my favorite productions of this wonderful musical.

American Stage Theater Company presentsHairspray through May 14, 2017, at Demons Landing in St. Petersburg. For more information, visit

Cast (in order of appearance):
Tracy Turnblad: Allyson pace*
Corny Collins: Scott Daniel*
Edna Turnblad: Matthew McGee*
Penny Pingleton: Kayla Tomas
Velma Von Tussle: Alison Burns*
Amber Von Tussle: Meredith Pughe
Link Larkin: Daavid Michael Bevis*
Seaweed J. Stubbs: Deejay Young*
Little Inez: Nia Jamison-Sissle
Motormouth Maybelle: Jayne Trinette*
Wilbur Turnblad: Thomas Mothershed
Prudy Pingleton/Gym Teacher/Matron: Melanie Souza*
Mr. Pinky/Harriman J. Spritzer: Tom Bengston
Gilbert: Xerron Mingo
Ensemble/Stoole: Matt Acquard
Cindy Watkins: Shante Clarke
Lorraine: Jessica Rebecca
Duane: Terrence Jamison
Council Members:
Tammy: Erin Leigh Knowles
Brad: Adam Zeph
Fender: Ethan Zeph
Brenda: Brianna Mooney
Sketch: Matt Acquard
IQ: Emanuel Carrero
Lou Ann: Sadie Lockhart
The Dynamites:
Judine: Jessica Rebecca
Kamilah: Shante Clarke
Shayna: Nia Jamison Sissle
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association

The Band:
Musical Director/Keys I: Michael Raabe
Keys 2: David Estevez
Reeds: Dave Pate
Guitar: Paul Stoddart
Bass: Kenny Walker
Drums: Burt Rushing

Direction and Choreography: Shain Stroff
Musical Direction: Michael Raabe
Scenic Design and Properties Master: Jerid Fox
Lighting Design: Mike Wood#
Sound Design: J. thor Productions
Costume Design: Trish Kelly
Wig and Hair Design: Scott Daniel*
Stage Manager: Miriam Rochfoerd*
#=Member of the United Scenic Artists union

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