Theater Info for Maryland

Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre Hairspray

By • Jul 27th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre
CCBC-Essex, Baltimore, MD
Through August 7th
2:45 with intermission
$36/$32 Senior and CCBC Alumni
Reviewed July 22nd, 2011

By now, unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know the story of Hairspray. Plucky, overweight, teen dance sensation Tracy Turnblad turns Baltimore upside down and makes a major stride for racial integration in the 1960s. It is a fun, funny, toe-tapping extravaganza whether you see it for the first time or the five hundredth. The Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre production will especially appeal to those that have never seen the show and have few preconceived notions about the characters. For those with preconceived notions, leave them at the door.

Director John Desmone really puts his own spin on the material with his vision. It is closer to the original film than the different musical adaptations. It is pure camp with a lot of shtick. The characters are way over the top and play to the audience a decent amount. It is anything but subtle. However, since the entire show (actors, set, costumes, lights, etc.) are consistent with this vision, it works, and it works well.

Sarah Ford Gorman is a little physically small for Tracy, but her performance is huge. She has powerhouse vocals and does a great job of leading the vision of over-exaggerated personalities. As her best friend Penny, Anna Holmes is an absolute ball of energy with really gorgeous vocals. Shane Lowry is slightly less strong as Link Larkin and lacks that “something extra” that makes a teen heart-throb but has a nice voice and mellow likeability. J Hargrove as Seaweed is another example of putting preconceived visions aside. Although he looks nothing like you would expect the character to look, he can dance and sing with such ease and skill that it never matters.

The absolute best thing in the show is John W. Ford as Edna. Even following in the huge footsteps that mark the tradition for that role, he finds a way to make it his own and absolutely shines. Gary Dieter’s Wilbur is very cartoonish, but he remains consistent in that choice and shows his skill as a song-and-dance man in the number “Timeless to Me.”

As Motormouth Maybelle, Eleanor Lawrence Wyche definitely has the vocal chops but does not seem to be experienced as an actress. She seems like she is used to having a microphone in her hand and not trying to embody a character. She seems out-of-place on the acting stage and often wanders or turns her back from the audience. It is also hard to believe her performance of “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful,” because she is neither big nor blonde. There are no attempts to pad her either, though she is far from plus-sized. On the other hand, Nancy Parrish Assendorf as Velma Von Tussle seems like she was born on stage. She is extremely comfortable, and her searing vocals are just the icing on the cake. As her daughter Amber, Elisabeth Johnson creates a great spoiled character. Christopher Council’s Corny Collins is not one of the brightest spots. He has good vocals but remains one-dimensional in the role and becomes largely forgettable.

The ensemble was overall strong. They were precise in their dance moves, had great energy, and brought life to the smaller characters. A few of the small roles fell a little flat, but most were well-played. Tiara N. Whaley really stood out as Little Inez with easily the best voice in the cast. Tammy Crisp put her own wildly memorable twist on Prudy Pingleton. The excellent choreography by Bambi Johnson really helped the ensemble shine as well.

The set was gorgeous. The Baltimore row houses were realistic and detailed. Locations changed quickly and seamlessly. Every piece was intricately designed and full of life and color. The lighting was really well-utilized throughout to show changes in location and mood. The cues were impeccable in their timing. The costumes were beautiful, well-designed, and period appropriate. The sound balance was, for the most part, well maintained, although the vocals at the end of “I Know Where I’ve Been” were a little too overpowering.

All in all, it is a production worth seeing, especially if you have not yet had the chance to see this show. If you are a fan, just make sure you leave your expectations at home.


  • Tracy Turnblad: Sarah Ford Gorman
  • Corny Collins: Christopher Council
  • Edna Turnblad: John W. Ford
  • Prudy Pingleton: Tammy Crisp
  • Penny Pingleton: Anna Holmes
  • Velma Von Tussle: Nancy Parrish Assendorf/Michele Guyton (August 6th & 7th)
  • Amber Von Tussle: Elisabeth Johnson
  • Link Larkin: Shane Lowry
  • Tammy: Jennifer Lutz
  • Brenda: Natalie Knox
  • Shelley: Laura Pierpont
  • Lou Ann: Kyleigh Daiker
  • Brad: Ben Getz
  • Sketch: Matt Feldman
  • IQ: Ryan DeVoe
  • Fender: Conor DeVoe
  • Harriman F. Spritzer: Rick Arnold
  • Wilbur Turnblad: Gary Dieter
  • Little Inez: Tiara N. Whaley
  • Seaweed J. Stubbs: J Hargrove
  • Duane: Brandon Shaw
  • Stooie: Jamil Johnson
  • Gilbert: Seth Johnson
  • Thad: Matthew Henson
  • Lorraine: Nikita Chaudhry
  • Cindy: Tigga Smaller
  • Principal: Drew Gaver
  • The Dynamites: Shereen Ahmed, Katie Nickerson, Kris Sharpe, Monique Lorraine Watson
  • Mr. Pinky: Albert J. Boeren
  • Fan: Maria Starcher
  • Gym Teacher: Jessica Brockmeyer
  • Motormouth Maybelle: Eleanor Lawrence Wyche
  • Matron: Liz Boyer Hunnicutt
  • Guard: John Wesley Hughes
  • Denizens of Baltimore: Shereen Ahmed, Rick Arnold, Albert J. Boeren, Jessica Brockmeyer, Nikita Chaudhry, Tammy Crisp, Kyleigh Daiker, Conor DeVoe, Ryan DeVoe, Matt Feldman, Drew Gaver, Ben Getz, Matthew Henson, John Wesley Hughes, Jamil Johnson, Seth Johnson, Katie Nickerson, Kris Sharpe, Brandon Shaw, Tigga Smaller, Maria Starcher, Monique Lorraine Watson

Production Team

  • Director: John Desmone
  • Musical Director: Tiffany Underwood-Holmes
  • Choreographer: Bambi Johnson
  • Dance Captains: Ryan DeVoe, Natalie Knox
  • Technical Director: G. Maurice “Moe” Conn
  • Stage Manager: Molly Hopkins
  • Set Designer: Marc W. Smith
  • Baltimore Wall Designer: Jennifer Steams
  • Lighting Designer: Terri Raulie
  • Assistant Lighting Designer: Hank Meyer
  • Light Board Operator: Nicholas Logue
  • Spotlight Operators: Deanna Gilmore, Jeremy Griffith
  • Sound Designer: John Suchy
  • Sound Board Operator: Terry Edwards
  • Costumer Designer: Tracy Bird
  • Master Electrician: Hank Meyer
  • Scenic Artist: Marc W. Smith
  • Construction Crew: Nathan Davis, Nathan Best, Hank Meyer, Alicia Secada-Lovio, Deanna Gilmore, Joe Sigai, John Schneider, Matt Norton, Timothy Manning
  • Running Crew: Nathan Davis, Michael Delaney, Nick Kanellopulos, Tony Steiner, Joshua Wolf


  • Conductor/Keyboard I: Tiffany Underwood-Holmes
  • Keyboard II: Michael Hopkins-Gros
  • Guitar: Joe Napollilo
  • Reed I: Stacey Antoine
  • Reed II: Brian Butler
  • Trumpet: Frank Gorecki
  • Drums: Chris Marino
  • Cello: Jonathan Chandler

Disclaimer: Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.