Guilty Pleasure Day - "You Can't Stop the Beat"
Sometimes you just have to let production values, infectious repetitive melodies, and larger-than-life personalities take over and transport you to Broadway nirvana. There is nothing like a great eleven o'clock number to stir the theatergoer's soul one more time before dumping them onto West 46th Street and into the arms of a cold world. These numbers don't even need to make sense. There is a guilty pleasure in their joy. One of my guilty pleasures is "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray. The musical itself is a cartoon-like celebration of individuality set in the 1960s where finding one's voice was what life was all about. The zaftig Tracy Turnblad turns the city of Baltimore on end when she dares to audition her full-figured personage on The Corny Collins Show, Baltimore's number one teen program. Her zest for life and passionate dancing land her the part. and she utilizes her new-found celebrity to inspire her shy mother to emerge from her shell, as well as to instigate racial integration on her program. Hairspray's penultimate number, "You Can't Stop the Beat" is such a feel-good tune that audience members were actually triggered to dance in the aisles. The lyrics are negligible: mostly fortune cookie-style platitudes about being who you are in the face of adversity. The music is repetitive and relentless. It employs that age-old trick of starting out with one performer, and building upon itself until the whole cast, even the villains, are transformed by its message and electricity. Marc Shaiman (music & lyrics) and Scott Wittman (lyrics) have summoned all of the right ingredients to just make the audience feel good. Nothing wrong with that in the land of musical theatre!