‘Hairspray’ in Asbury Park from the Premier Theatre

It was quite a windy, blustery day last Sunday, October 19, when a friend and I went to the afternoon matinee performance of Hairspray by the Premier Theatre Company. This production was given in the Paramount Theatre which is adjacent to the Asbury Park Convention Hall. It only ran three days but it had previously been performed by Premier Theatre this past summer.

Neither of us had seen the stage version of Hairspray but we had both seen the movie. But after seeing this show, I found that I liked the live show better than the movie and kicked myself for not having gone to see it when it was on Broadway! The Premier Theatre did a great job of bringing this story about the lives of teenagers in Baltimore, 1962 to life on the stage. The singing was very good, the dance numbers were high energy and well choreographed and the production got the audience laughing and enjoying the unfolding of the story.

In this production, Jenna Garrison played the lead, Tracy Turnblad, the gal who was a little bigger than some of her fellow ladies of the day, but was filled with heart, enthusiasm and loads of dancing skill. Garrison has a very fine singing voice and she danced with a nice light step making Tracy come alive in a very positive and believable way. Emily Keefe was so funny in her portrayal of Tracy’s good friend, Penny. Alexandra Ambriano had the right combination of over done sweetness and nastiness to play Amber VanTussle and her mom, Velma, was well played by Mary Lawrence. John Sabatos made a delightful Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s ample sized mom. Juanita Southerland played Motormouth Maybelle whose rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” was a highlight of the show.

Also in this fine cast were Billy Raulerson (Corny Collins), Michael Hopkins (Link Larkin), Anne Brennan (Prudy Pingleton), John Hartzel (Mr. Pinky), Tom Fruch (Wilber Turnblad), ShiQuell Scurry (Seaweed J. Stubbs), and Ia Morton, Mackenzie Uplinger (Little Inez). Additionally there was a large ensemble of gals and guys who danced up a storm. Secretly, I wished I could have been a part of that group even if I had been the oldest looking one there!

The last time I went to a Premier Theatre production was when they were using the high school in Lyncroft and they were selling their own snacks during intermission. But since they are now on the Boardwalk, we were encouraged to buy something from the local merchants at intermission. This spirit of helping each other out in Asbury Park was evident through our visit as we heard it more than one time. So out we went through the convenient side door which opens to the enclosed area in front of Convention Hall. It houses a number of merchants and eating establishments. We got delicious hot drinks from the Asbury Park Roastery. I had a Pumpkin Cocoa which was very tasty and my friend got a Pumpkin Latte, also good. Just a word of warning, although the staff there was working fast and hard, we had taken a little longer than we should have and found that the show had started the second act and were late, something I never do! Sorry Premier Theatre…

My friend’s husband picked us up after the show and the three of us went to downtown Asbury Park to Fish, which is a restaurant. Fish offers a Happy Hour throughout Sunday where selected wines, drinks, and appetizers are $6 each. We each enjoyed a beverage and we had fish sliders and lobster mac and cheese. This had to be one of the best mac and cheeses I have ever eaten as Fish does not scrimp on the amount of lobster they put into that dish. I could have sat the rest of the afternoon and eaten more and more of it. But of course I couldn’t as all good things come to an end. But the visit to Fish was fabulous.

Good theater, good food and drink, and best of all good friends – All in all, it was a fantastic Matinee Sunday spent at Asbury Park, New Jersey, where theater is thriving.