‘Hairspray’ production well done but lacks historically correct fashion choices

By Ashley Davis
Copy Editor

I had the pleasure of seeing the last performance of McLennan Community College Theater’s production of “Hairspray” on Sunday afternoon in the Ball Performing Arts Center on the MCC campus.

The play was directed by MCC theater director and choreographer Jerry MacLauchlin.

It is no secret that this play is probably one of the most well known since Adam Shankman remade the film, which came out in 2007. “Hairspray,” set in 1962 Baltimore, Md., is about a plump girl (Tracy Turnblad) who makes it on to a local dance show and becomes an instant celebrity. She soon makes it her mission to integrate the show and win the show’s pageant contest. The musical is a social commentary on race relations during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

I am pleased to give the MCC Theater four stars for this production for its organization, excellent vocals, choreography and stage direction.

My only complaint is with some aspects of the costuming. “Hairspray” is set in the early ’60s, a time period with a distinct style and fashion sense that has influenced countless recent trends. However in the play, 60s fashion was not strictly adhered to and seemed, at times, to not even be consulted.

Upon research of previous productions of the play and a look back at early ’60s fashion, the time period of the play calls for plain slacks and slick hair for the men and simple geometric dresses and curled hair for the women, or full skirted dresses on formal occasions. Think Jackie Kennedy and “Grease” for a reference. What I saw in the play was half accurate.

While the actors playing the white characters on the Corny Collins Show were dressed appropriately, many of the people playing the black actors in the play’s “Negro Day,” a segment in The Corny Collins Show, were dressed in mismatching plaids and oversized tunics.

Not only is this grossly inaccurate to the time period of the play, it exacerbated an already obvious difference in social class between the black and the white characters. Not to mention mixing plaids is a horrible fashion faux pas that transcends race, time and any conceivably liberal interpretation of the costuming of the play.

The disparity between the races (which is what half the play is already about) was overemphasized in the clothing and was ultimately detrimental to the overall effect.

This major inconsistency in costuming is the main reason the production gets four stars rather than five.

The play is already about tense race relations between whites and blacks, which was reflected in the media as well as in real life. This aspect of the play did not need to be reflected in the clothing as well. It doesn’t take much research to know what black people wore in the ’60s and if there was any doubt, past productions of the play should have been consulted.

There were also some understandably censored lines in the play that veered from the comedic effect the script is supposed to have. However, as the original script of the play is quite raunchy in its innuendos and puns, for the sake of a family audience, the script was rightfully altered.

However, overall the play was very entertaining, witty and showcased many talented performers that MCC, Baylor and the Waco community are lucky to have.