Newman, from SRT's Playbill

At Santa Rosa Junior College’s Summer Repertory Theatre, audiences expect consistently solid performances from talented actors drawn from around the nation.
What they don’t expect is to see Artistic Director James Newman in pantyhose.
But when a cast member had to leave for what one volunteer described as a family emergency, Newman gamely took wig and housedress to play Edna Turnblad in the company’s production of “Hairspray.”
On Thursday he had the audience in stitches. He clearly enjoyed the wackiness that comes with a big blonde hairdo and matching outfits with Edna’s daughter Tracy, the show’s teen heroine.
In Hairspray, Edna is a man’s role. That fact offers a little insight in what’s to come in this slightly off-kilter look at teen life in 1962 Baltimore. Tracy isn’t your typical leading lady. She’s short and stout, but she dreams of being on the local teen TV dance show and soon she’s dreaming of winning the love of the show’s top teen male idol.
At first, “Hairspray” seems one big whoopee cushion, with its one-liners coming fast and furious. But then it shows how racial segregation was an ugly part of that era, and the messages of accepting and respecting all types of people comes through loud and clear.
The cast members all dazzled, especially Taylor Ross as Tracy and Marlin Jamar Williams dancing up a storm as Seaweed. But the highlight for many was Newman, who answered the call to take up the “54 triple E” and gave us a night to remember.

— Robert Digitale

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By the way, this is SRT’s 40th anniversary festival weekend, with a 5 p.m. wine and hors d’oeuvres reception Saturday and a 4:30 p.m. BBQ Sunday. Tickets are $25 for the reception and $5 for the BBQ. They can be purchased at the theater’s box office, 527-4307.