NY Mirror

More drudgery than luxury, The Boys From Syracuse might be the shabbiest musical revival since Bells Are Ringing; it's this close to torture by toga. But then there's Hairspray, whose buoyant success seems to be eliminating everyone's frizzy blues. (It's summer!) Honey, if you had told me a John Waters movie would become a hit Broadway musical, I would have said, "Yeah, right, and Harvey Fierstein will play the lead in drag." But now that the unimaginable's happened, I'm beside myself. Waters's subversive wit reached new levels with that movie, which added sweetness and meaning to his hot formula of spoofy grotesqueness. The show is a somewhat different animal, mind you—it comes at you like a fat, drag Mack truck, a well-oiled machine that's Broadway all the way, but it's got cleverness and candy-colored talent on nonstop a-go-go. Pretending to be a tale of enlightened whites forcing other whites to accept integration in the '60s, it's really about sophisticated gays forcing straights to accept camp in the '00s, but baby, it works, snap-snap (especially since there are two Gypsy homages and a Waters vocal cameo)!

The cast and crew even spew camp dialogue offstage. At the Roseland opening-night party, composer Marc Shaiman said, "I'm an old Jew. I like to worry and complain. Harvey thinks on my gravestone it'll say, 'I was better last night.' But these days I'm happy and smiling. Talk to me in an hour!" Fierstein—who's a slow-burning riot as Edna—told me, "For the finale, I wear 35 extra pounds of fat, the wig is six pounds, the dress is 10 pounds, and the lashes alone can kill you. But when I catch myself in the mirror . . . it's worth it!" Linda Hart, who plays the evil racist, told me, "In real life, I'm not blond, I'm not a bitch, and my father pastors a black church!" (Thank God life doesn't imitate twat.) Finally, Waters himself came in and looked bemused by the paparazzi-laden spectacle around him, a far cry from the filthiest people alive. (Or was it?) What next—Pink Flamingos the musical? "I want to do that as an opera," he said. "Actually, somebody already did. I have it on tape." I hear the dogshit-eating aria is extraordinary!

Really finally, Susanne Bartsch threw an after-after-party for the show at Escuelita, with spectacular displays of drag queens and downtown chubbettes with high hair and ironing boards further blurring the division between legit and underground. Screw it, do it—it's gayer than you think!

Taking a bow: the Hairspray after-after-party at Escuelita
photo: Richard Mitchell
Taking a bow: the Hairspray after-after-party at Escuelita


musto@villagevoice.com

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