Edna Turnblad may see herself as a "pair of bobby socks with the elastic all gone," but the plus-size mama's sweet scene with her man steals the show in Billings Studio Theatre's production of "Hairspray."
Billings actor Adam Jacques plays the tricky role of Edna. It's a challenge for a man to play a woman without trivializing the part with cheap laughs. Jacques does it just right — making sure the audience appreciates the fact that there is indeed a man under the curlers and lipstick, but tapping into the sentimentality of a cozy duet with Wilbur on one of the show's highlights, "You're Timeless to Me."
It's hard to describe how a romantic scene between two male actors can be so poignant, but Jacques and Dave Kinnard, as the animated goofball Wilbur, pull it off.
The musical, directed by Gerry Roe, plays through Feb. 20.
Kudos to music director Kathy McLain for preparing a fine 14-member chorus, strong on vocals and well rehearsed. The blue plaid suits, orange and pink muumuus and the day-glow set by Sarah Brewer are all a wild flashback to the 1960s.
It's forgivable that not all the soloists have perfect pitch or flawless dance moves because the whole cast exudes so much energy and heart, the show never disappoints.
There is no denying that "Hairspray" is a fun musical with 20 big songs and a rocking nine-piece orchestra. But it also has a lofty goal to inspire acceptance of people who aren't built like you, don't dance like you and whose skin color is different from yours. And nobody delivers those messages as well as Mary Ryan as the plus-size teen Tracy and Margia Pretlow as Motormouth Maybelle, the "Big Blond and Beautiful" African-American leader. Pretlow's rendition of "I Know Where I've Been" is part gospel, part blues, and it hearkens back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s marches and "We Shall Overcome." Brandon Burton is a standout as Seaweed Stubbs, Motormouth's engaging son whose dance moves (including an aerial somersault) are second only to his fantastic vocals, especially on the bluesy "Run and Tell That."
Big hair, a big youthful chorus and big, catchy numbers like "Welcome to the '60s" turn BST's "Hairspray" into a queen-sized party.