Expression City is Nashville’s newest theatre company and they are not “playing” around. For their first production, they’ve chosen to take on a favorite, Hairspray. The story of Tracy Turnblad taking on Miss Baltimore Crabs herself to integrate a sock hop dance show in the 1960’s. The story became an instant classic when it hit Broadway, winning eight Tony’s, including the coveted Best Musical in 2003. The play is originally based on the cult classic film of the same name.
Expression City brings a lot of familiar names to the table and combines them with young, local talent. The hope of the company is to create something like a school for the arts. They’re bringing in kids and teaching them the arts and getting them interested again. Local talent is coming in and showing them the ropes. This production is essentially a recital for them, letting them show off the work they’ve been doing for the past few months. It was a pleasant way to spend a Friday night.
Brian Best is well known for being a local theater heavyweight. He’s been a hit in several local productions here in the Nashville community. He quickly reminds the audience why he’s so sought after with his performance of Edna Turnblad. With makeup done by the renowned drag queen Trinity Monroe, this Edna makes the show sparkle. The “Timeless To Me” number was just and absolute delight. His performance in the finale makes the entire show worthwhile and why I recommend you see the show.
Kate Adams–Kramer, who I’m used to seeing take part in shows at the Larry Keeton Theatre in Donelson, played Prudy Pingleton and the Doll House Matron in this production. She’s a terrific choreographer and a joy to see dance. This show was no exception. Her dancing skill is always on point. I had never actually seen the “Doll House” tap dancing number in the second act. Adams – Kramer brought her tap game and shined.
Santayana Harris was Motormouth Maybelle in this production. Her Maybelle was smooth as silk. Her vocal ability was the best in the cast, which with this role is a must. “I Know Where I’ve Been” gave me unexpected chills. Her voice was moving. I have seen her before in smaller roles around town, but tonight made me wonder why she wasn’t a bigger part of some of the productions I’ve seen her in. I would love to see her lead in a production of Ain’t Misbehavin’. Her voice has a jazzy, bluesy sound that is just delicious.
The role of Penny can often go either way. It takes a talented actress to be able to balance the campiness the role requires while still making you believe she is kind without being insincere. Elizabeth Aikens portrayal of Tracy’s best friend is sweeter than Pecan Pie (pour some sugar on it sugar, don’t be shy). While keeping the role silly, she also kept it innocent and kind. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her, if her talents were honed, grow to be a great actress. Seeing her take on a local leading role would be something very worthwhile. There’s real talent there. I can’t wait to see what she does with it.
Hairspray is a show that we need right now. For this community of readers, we’re all facing the ever-looming Presidential transition. For many of us, it’s a frightening thought. There seems to be little hope and we’re constantly being reminded of the very present racism within our country. To see a group of young actors take on Hairspray with as much zeal and honesty gave me hope. Students who are interested in art, and more importantly art that supports equality, was very uplifting.
Being the company’s first show, there were several places to improve. Sound was an issue and there were a couple of performances that could stand to have been a little better prepared. But, one must keep in mind that these are young performers. There were also a couple of members of the ensemble who were very memorable. It would be neat if they were to be the next Reese Witherspoon and you saw them perform. If you’re worried about the current PEOTUS, this would be a great way to show you that there is hope. It starts with kids like this performing in a show like this.
There are two more showings, Saturday at 6:30 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. You can purchase tickets at the door or via the Facebook page.