Get ready for something big at the Orpheum

The 2007 film “Hairspray” will be shown this week at the Orpheum. Actually, three versions of “Hairspray” have been made. The original film (1988) was co-written and directed by cult film maker John Waters. Waters’ reputation and quirky style of filmmaking was perfect for the delightful “message film” presented in “Hairspray.” This film was followed by a Broadway version of the musical in 2002, which was written and directed by a whole new team. The most recent version was made in 2007 with John Waters as one of several screenwriters.

The story centers around a Baltimore teenage girl in the 1960s whose biggest dream is to be on a locally televised dance show (like “American Bandstand”). Because of her untraditional size most people don’t think she will be cast in the show. The young plus-sized teen not only dances on the show but becomes one of the most popular teens to be on the show. The girl, Tracy Turnblad, uses her newfound fame to protest the hot topic of the times, segregation.

This musical is lively, colorful, and easily adaptable to various times. Although racial segregation on the federal level has been addressed since this film’s debut, the concept of prejudice and segregation about different topics is still alive today. The viewer could substitute one of many national dividers in place of the racial segregation theme and the point of the movie would still hold true.

The unique quality of this particular musical is the casting of a male in the role of Tracy Turnblad’s mother. In the original movie the part was played by female impersonator Divine. On Broadway, Tony award-winning actor Harvey Fierstein played the role. In the 2007 movie, the role received a lot of press when John Travolta took the part. Other top-notch actors fill in the other roles: Tracy’s father (Christopher Walken), a jealous stage mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), drama queen of the dance show (Brittany Snow), the handsomest kid on the show (Zac Efron) and the delightful and extremely talented Nikki Blonsky as Tracy.

I usually like musicals and I am a fan of dance, but I’d never heard of Nikki Blonsky. The idea of John Travolta in drag wasn’t a draw for me, and Christopher Walken singingI don’t think so. But I like to watch movies – all kinds of movies – so when “Hairspray” came out on DVD I rented it. To my surprise I loved this movie. Nikki Blonsky was incredibly talented. She danced as though that was her main profession. Travolta and Walken were delightful as the caring parents. I always enjoy Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer plays both a wonderful “stage mom” and a terrific villain. I can’t wait to see this wonderful, joyful movie on the big screen.

The film is rated PG. I think all ages will enjoy this totally entertaining and delightful musical.

Show times are 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out the gallery and exhibit hall that features Iowa stage and film memorabilia and information. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit

Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille’s Critic’s Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.