Former Monkee Mickey Dolenz, 67, stole the show last week as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presented a concert version of the musical Hairspray. He even upstaged Hairspray’s creator John Waters, who served as narrator. (The action, with full choreography and costumes played out in front of the onstage orchestra, and seemed as rich as a fully staged production). Dolenz’s performance wasn’t completely original. As the father of Tracy Turnblad, the girl whose drive and oversized personality lead to an integration milestone in fictional 1960s Baltimore, Dolenz channels (shamelessly steals from?) both Art Carney and Jimmie Durante. (Christopher Walken played the part in the 2007 film.)
The former boy star could barely keep a straight face in his big musical number with his wife Edna — who is always played by a man, in this case the solid and sweet Paul Vogt. But despite cracking up repeatedly, Dolenz charmed the capacity crowd in suburban Maryland. The actor put to rest any lingering memories of him as a sweet young Monkee, which he’s been trying to do most of his post-“Clarksville” career.
After Rockville, the show played Baltimore this past weekend — and perhaps Waters was more at home there. In the ‘burbs he seemed a bit tense and not quite in his element, reading, with varying degrees of success, a script that made explicit the connections between the real Baltimore of the ‘60s and the fictional world of Hairspray — which started out as Waters’ 1988 indie movie, before landing on Broadway in 2002 (and winning a bunch of Tonys while running for over 2500 performances). It then made its way to Hollywood as a vehicle for John Travolta in the role of Edna Turnblad, a part originated by the unique female impersonator Divine.
The show is co-produced by the Indianapolis Symphony and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and, as they used to say of the Monkees, it may be coming to your town. If Dolenz is traveling with it, run, don’t walk to see it.
Cast photo by Tom Russo, John Waters by Cory Donovan. Courtesy of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra