Boston Theatre: You Can’t Stop This Beat

Weekend plans are always delightful. After all, they help you escape the excruciating phenomenon known as FOMO.  However, many are often found confining themselves

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Senior Graphic Artist

to fraternity parties and concerts. While it is a typical college experience, the strobe lights of concerts overshadow another much needed experience here in Boston — the theater.

Picture it — you walk into the golden, shimmering doors of the Citizens Bank Opera House to find a man dressed in red and gold, ready to scan your ticket. Then, you are gently ushered up the marble staircases, surrounded by golden-trimmed walls and ceiling paintings, reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Finally, you reach your seats at the balcony to find the ruby red curtains flowing with the breeze in the theater, an optical illusion causing the ceiling to look like a summer sunset as the pit’s golden instruments gleam off the illuminating lights.

“Hairspray on Tour” — which closed at the end of October — was the first time I experienced this theater sensation. It was nothing short of enchanting. 

A story set in 1960s Baltimore, dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad auditions for a role on the popular “Corny Collins Show,” but not without the criticism from the show’s executive producers for her size and flamboyance. When she eventually gets the role, Tracy becomes an overnight celebrity and sets dance and fashion trends day by day. When she meets a friend named Seaweed, who is forced to live in a neighborhood across town due to segregation, Tracy’s eyes are opened to the harsh reality of racism. Thus, she strives to use her well-known platform to grant civil rights to all people of color.

This production was nothing less than transformative and fulfilling. “Hairspray” combats a shopping list of social change, if you will. One of the stand out roles, Edna Turnblad (Tracy’s mother), is traditionally played by male actors including John Travolta and Harvey Fierstein in past versions — bringing captivating elements of drag into theater. Additionally, in the light of the Black and Asian Lives Matter protests over the past two years, Hairsprays message is more crucial than ever. 

The cast burst with expert talent from all across television, Broadway and iconic college programs. Andrew Levitt, more famously known as Nina West from season 11 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” played the role of Edna Turnblad. Nick Cortazzo, who played the high school heartthrob Link Larkin, has also starred in regional adaptations of “Kinky Boots,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Sister Act,” and “Grease.”  Sandie Lee — playing the influential Motormouth Maybelle — earned a master’s degree in Performing Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design, with previous experience on the national tour of  “The Color Purple.”

What was so unique about this production was that its musical numbers tugged at every emotion possible.

The famous “Welcome To the Sixties” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” touched on the audience’s euphoric side as they clapped along. The campy comedy of “Timeless to Me” brought the theater to life with laughter. Lastly, the ever-so-powerful “I Know Where I’ve Been” struck the audience with overflowing inspiration and strength as tears stained the playbills of many sitting around me. 

What’s next?

After this article, you’re probably thinking, “Wow! When is the next opportunity I can witness a production with so many star-studded components to it?” Currently, “Six” the musical, a modern musical and comedic retelling of the six wives of Henry VIII, is putting on a grand show at the Emerson Colonial Opera House from Nov. 9 through Dec. 31.

The musical that took the nation by storm this past decade, “Hamilton” — the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton — comes to America’s first city from Jan. 17, 2023 through March 12, 2023. 

When my friends and I took a chance on “Hairspray,” we ended up finding that our seats were in the very last and highest row furthest from the stage. Yet, that didn’t minimize our exhilaration when walking out of a newfound memory. So, don’t wait, get your tickets now and enjoy the theater in Boston. 


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