NCT’s High-Octane Production of “Hairspray” Is a Must-See Musical, with Energy to Burn

Jennifer Foster and Jason Kappus star as roly-poly would-be dancer Tracy Turnblad and teen heartthrob Link Larkin in "Hairspray" (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
Jennifer Foster and Jason Kappus star as roly-poly would-be dancer Tracy Turnblad and teen heartthrob Link Larkin in "Hairspray" (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

Jennifer Foster and Jason Kappus star as roly-poly would-be dancer Tracy Turnblad and teen heartthrob Link Larkin in "Hairspray" (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
Jennifer Foster and Jason Kappus star as roly-poly would-be dancer Tracy Turnblad and teen heartthrob Link Larkin in "Hairspray" (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

The North Carolina Theatre‘s high-octane production of Hairspray is a must-see musical, with energy to burn, thanks to kinetic staging by director John Simpkins and choreographer Josh Rhodes, exuberant instrumental accompaniment by musical director Nancy Whelan and the NCT orchestra, and a crackerjack cast that really knows how to shake, rattle, and roll. The show also boasts truly spectacular scenery, props, and costumes, which were originally designed by scenic designer David Rockwell and costume designer William Ivey Long for NETworks Presentations, LLC of Columbia, MD.

Jennifer Foster is a ball of fire as roly-poly teenager Tracy Turnblad, with big hair and an even bigger heart to go with her thunder thighs. Tracy dreams of tripping the light fantastic 1962 rock-and-roll style on The Corny Collins Show; but that local television dance shows producer Velma Von Tussle (Christine Hunter) is determined to banish the gravitationally challenged from the show, and restrict minorities to Negro Day.

Hunter is also one mean stage mother, always angling to maneuver her daughter Amber (Rhiannon Hansen) into duets with the shows star, teenage heartthrob Linc Larkin (Jason Kappus). But instead of swooning for Ambers blond good looks, Larkin develops a crush on Tracy, and the stage is set for a Big Showdown.

Donnell James Foreman and Dana Steingold are a hoot as African-American dancing dynamo Seaweed J. Stubbs and his white girlfriend Penny Pingleton. But it is Dale Hensley and Dirk Lumbard who bring the house down with their outrageous antics as formidable foghorn-voiced Edna Turnblad and her goofball husband, Wilbur, who operates a novelty shop.

Other standouts include Lisa Jolley as the aptly named Prudy Pingleton and Christopher Sloan as genial dance-show host Corny Collins — and especially Jannie Jones as Motormouth Maybelle and Ariana DeBose as Little Inez.

The North Carolina Theatres clever and resourceful creative team and a stellar cast chock-full of rising stars keep Raleigh Memorial Auditorium really hopping during this toe-tapping presentation of the smash-hit 2002 Broadway musical based on John Waters’ 1988 cult film Hairspray, set in 1962 in Waters native Baltimore and no doubt inspired at least in part — by actual events in which the in-group in high school made students who marched to different drummers feel like outcasts.

SECOND OPINION: July 27th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Zach Smith (who awarded the show 4 of 5 stars):; July 17th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: and July 26th review by Roy C. Dicks: (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the July 22nd Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

The North Carolina Theatre presents HAIRSPRAY at 8 p.m. July 30 and 2 and 7 p.m. July 31 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $32.00-$84.50 (including fees).


NCT Box Office: 919/831-6941.

Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): or







The 1988 Film: (Wikipedia) and (Internet Movie Database).

The 2002 Broadway Musical: (official website for the U.K. tour), (Wikipedia), and (Internet Broadway Database).

The 2007 Film: (official website) and (Internet Movie Database).

John Simpkins: (official website).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).