Before speaking to individual performances, Aisle Say wishes to mount his social consciousness pulpit. There is so much troubling unease in society; shootings in the streets of the nation, vitriol on Capitol Hill, animus between the two Presidential candidates provoked by the pumpkin-tinged one whose cantilevered coif defies both nature and gravity. We see a [...]

Before speaking to individual performances, Aisle Say wishes to mount his social consciousness pulpit.
There is so much troubling unease in society; shootings in the streets of the nation, vitriol on Capitol Hill, animus between the two Presidential candidates provoked by the pumpkin-tinged one whose cantilevered coif defies both nature and gravity. We see a nascent brewing racism that we had all naively hoped had passed and had overcome. Meanness, frustration and anger on the national stage are the new normal.
One breath of hope, one shining ray of love, if only for an evening, is Candlelight's HAIRSPRAY. I have seen every Candlelight show for a decade. HAIRSPRAY demands a large African-American entourage. One suspects that Philly based Director/Choreographer Dann Dunn reached out to many from his previous PA gigs. Perhaps 50% of the bios stated this was a Candlelight debut, most of them African-American. These talented performers infused the show with such joy, exuberance and camaraderie that the electricity generated should be stored to power Ardencroft's grid.
In the opening production one is taken first with the sensory image; Scenic Designer Envision Productions' whimsical set saturated with the pastels of Lighting Designer Chris Miller. The costume designs of Timm Cannon and Reba Ferdman worked in concert with set and light and they were playfully exacting to the early '60's.
Tracy Turnblad (Janine Merolla) was defiant and sweet, a difficult task. Never did she allow the name calling deter her from her mission. This may well be Merolla's defining role. Audiences love HAIRSPRAY and she has found her niche. Her Mom Edna (Patrick O'Hara) was dramatically understated in his/her character. As we see in the final scene, red is most definitely his/her color.
Aisle Say previously had commented on a Candlelight actor whose Cockney accent/character could play in any such role. I had thought that Tori Healy in last year's PUTNAM COUNTY was the consummate nerd and that this would be her defining geekness. I was dead wrong. Healy's 'Penny' put the former characterization to shame. In this role she is the female version of Arnold Stang, Don Knotts, Alfalfa, Erkle and the second coming of Roseanne Rosanna Danna.
Lindsay Mauck is evolving into a wonderful character actress. As the lesbian warden in the women's jail, was this line delivered so beautifully: 'Does anyone want to take a shower'? Still chuckling over that one.
One of Candlelight's leads from many shows returns as Velma Von Tussle (Kaylan Wetzel) as the Cruella De Ville of the fictional TV show. Evidenced by past productions, the songs she had did not do justice to her singing chops, but she certainly exhibited the ability to give a hypnotic stare and a snide reply. Her equally unctuous daughter Amber (Colleen Murphy) won the performance award for best wig that my dear sister Liz surmised was a tossup between Dolly Parton and Marie Antoinette. Wigs were by Lisa Miller Challenger, and boy, did she have her hands and other peoples' heads full !!!
Aside from the opening production number, the show really did not get rev'd up until Seaweed (Franklin Anthony) came on with 'Run and Tell That'. The man has charisma, he has charm and is a great dancer. I would suggest to work on the voice to become a true triple threat.
Kudos to the 3 Dynamites (Kayla Leacock, Pam ATK, Rose Scott) These women were the reincarnation of The Supremes, The Marvelettes or Patty Labelle and The Bluebelles. They were synched in their movements, attached at the hip in their choreo, costumed perfectly (loved the gloves) and a ton of nostalgic fun.
Duane (Devon Sinclair) is also making his Candlelight debut. I am dating myself, but look toward the black Tommy Tune breaking out.
Motormouth Maybelle (Tiara Greene) has major gospel chops. She tore in to 'I Know Where I've Been'. This was a showstopper. This was her third time playing the role. She has it down!
After Candlelight's last show THE MUSIC MAN, I went to Jenna Rogalski and commented on her sparkling performance. One must love her passion to be a performer. She had a lesser role this time, but I see the continual dedication to her craft. Plus, she is a hoot to watch onstage.
Why would any musical theatre performer NOT want to work under the direction and choreography of Dann Dunn? Aisle Say saw that a few years ago in Candlelight productions. Soon this region may lose him. He is the Assistant Director and Choreographer of the pre-Broadway show BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, a production that premiered last year at DE Theatre Company and has 42nd Street aspirations.
Also, longtime Candlelight Board member and arts advocate, State Sen Cathy Cloutier, is up for reelection. She is a Major donor to Candlelight.
Through Oct 30. CandlelightTheatreDelaware.org 302.475.2313