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Corn Stock Theatre

July 13 - 21
By Marty Lynch

By the looks of the audience in attendance at the Corn Stock theatre production of Hairspray!, Peoria’s theatre in Bradley park is no secret. If you have always meant to see a show there and have not made it yet, this is the time to go. You may never see such energy and enthusiasm as you will when you step into the tent. The dedication of these performers is all the more impressive when you consider that we were all trying to survive the recent heat wave while they were all singing and dancing in full costume.

In the recent trend of movies that were made into musicals that were made into movies, Hairspray! is the ideal case study. A cult classic gets made into a smash Broadway show then becomes a mild success again on the silver screen. The real treat of this show is that the play is better than both films. They all have the same plot; racial inequality in 1960s Baltimore is challenged and ultimately overcome by youth, music, and bubblegum pop.

Pam Orear has amassed an army in order to produce this show. Not in recent memory have I seen such a large cast, which in itself is an accomplishment. She takes a solid cast of principals and what essentially amount to two chorus ensembles and assembles a fast-paced energetic show. Her production is brought to the next level by choreographer Lindsey Perenchio. These two orchestrate the cast in such a way that audience members repeatedly gasp when everyone is on stage.

When I try to address the acting of the show, I find myself at a loss. There just isn’t enough time to list every strong performance. The program is filled with names of faces that are both fresh and familiar and amounts to a Who’s Who of rising stars in Peoria. Tracy Turnblad is played by Holly Haines with enough gusto to carry the show herself, though she never needs to. Bob Parkhurst plays Edna Turnblad in a classic rendition of comedy’s oldest gag. He combines everything I enjoy about past performances of the character. As someone that grew up in the area, I deeply appreciate the fact that he chose not to mock the Maryland accent. He and hidden gem Gene Bourke play Tracy’s parents, and their chemistry is terrific. Their number is a showstopper among showstoppers. I would love to tell you who else is likely to take their careers to the next level, be it Lauren Deppe, Taylor Nieman, Mitch Connolly, or Brian McKinley, but anyone that sees the show will realize how difficult it would be to choose one. Jasmyne Providence, the woman that plays Motormouth Maybelle, has the voice to carry her to her aspirations. Any one of these performers is worth the price of admission. That’s not to say anything about the ensemble, which is the driving force for much of the show. The girls had a tendency to outshine the boys when given the stage, but everyone onstage had charisma to burn.

For all the great performances in a top-notch show, this play is also a showcase spectacular. Pam Orear spearheads a team of designers and technicians that make this show’s sets, lights, costumes, wigs, and make-up fantastic. A stage that appears to be an elegant yet relatively simple set during pre-show transforms into a highly effective platform for scores of beautiful new costumes every five minutes.

This show is age appropriate for anyone old enough to sit through a 2:45 performance. Children in the audience laughed as loud as the adults, though perhaps for different reasons. Don’t let the heat of July scare you off either. The fact is that the tent is warm but not bad, and it gets much more comfortable as the night sets in. This is your chance to see bright faces singing and sharing a story with all of their hearts in the summer night. This is what theatre is meant to be.

Hairspray! runs through Saturday, July 21st. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for patrons 18 and younger and are available at the Corn Stock Box Office, by calling 309-676-2196 or online at

Posted July 16, 2012

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